Sunday, February 7, 2010

Police drug users

THREE young policemen watched a man in their party lean over the glass table in the Surfers Paradise nightclub VIP area as racks of cocaine were being lined up.

In jeans and T-shirts, the detectives flashed their badges to gain free entry to the venue on a typically quiet Thursday. "It was one or two in the morning . . . These weird things happen during the week, not on the weekends," a veteran nightclub security staffer told The Sunday Mail.

The middle-aged bouncer, with more than 10 years of experience on the door and inside the coast's top clubs, was tipped off by other staff to look upstairs. He knew a part-owner, who liked to have a reputation as a gangster-type, was up there.

What happened next shocked him enough to make plans to leave town. "There was a guy leaning over taking the white powder. There were two racks lined up. The three of them (the off-duty police) were standing around with one of the club's part-owners," he said. "They (the police) weren't acting on this.

"I said to myself: 'What am I doing here?' That's when I started to question everything. "It was enough for me to get out."

The next day he informed his boss, the nightclub licensee who had been off the premises the previous evening, and his immediate fear was losing his licence, worth upwards of half a million dollars. The bouncer, a family man, moved north 12 months ago and continues to work in the security industry.

Combine the amount of neon nightclub light in the Gold Coast's Surfers Paradise-Broadbeach tourist precinct with alcohol and drugs and the lines of policing were destined to be blurred.

Nightclub staff, senior detectives and experienced defence lawyers, who represent players in the drug scene, said there are major concerns about links between young officers and drug suppliers.

What differs from the 1980s-style organised corruption of the Fitzgerald era is officers are chasing supplies of illegal drugs for their own use, compromising their ability to police underworld figures.

"The old days of cops boozing, getting into trouble, is being replaced by coppers bouncing around in clubs using ecstasy and cocaine," a senior coast lawyer said. "It's not just cocaine. There is a lot of steroid use. These are super-fit, young guys. "It's axiomatic that anyone who becomes a drug user becomes a drug dealer, because drugs are expensive and the best way to recoup your money is to sell them."

Bond University criminologist Professor Paul Wilson blames police middle management for failing to supervise young police officers who find themselves walking the unique beat of Surfers Paradise.

Senior police acknowledge clubs offer officers free drinks, but their bigger concern is young recruits following the lead of their peer group friends and using drugs rather than alcohol. "The change has been in the past 10 to 15 years. It used to be the booze. Now it's the pills," a senior officer said.


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