Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tribunal blasts penalty for Sunshine Coast police officer's boozy party as 'inadequate'

Cops going easy on cops, as usual

THE Queensland Police Service has been reprimanded by an independent judiciary after imposing an "inadequate" penalty on a Sunshine Coast police officer who had a party with "questionable" people at a police station.

The incident was one of four cases involving police referred to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal by the Crime and Misconduct Commission in the past year.

Senior Constable Jeffrey Frazer admitted he and several civilians went to a social function and then returned to Caloundra Police Station with alcohol on November 14, 2009 – compromising public safety and the station's security, according to QCAT documents.

The tribunal said Sen-Constable Frazer and others "consumed alcohol in the social club area of the police station until about 4.30 in the morning". "Of concern, some of these people had questionable backgrounds and the security of the police station was compromised," the QCAT documents said.

The officer's salary was cut for six months, but the CMC referred the penalty to the tribunal because of its concerns the penalty was inadequate.

The documents revealed the CMC contended the penalty "did not properly reflect the purpose of the disciplinary proceedings by not protecting the public, upholding ethical standards in the Queensland Police Service, and promoting and maintaining confidence in the Queensland Police Service". QCAT then doubled the size of the salary cut and made it effective for 12 months.

But Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson said the original sanction was "appropriate". "Matters will continue to be carefully considered based on the circumstances and penalties permitted under the QPS disciplinary process," he said.

The CMC, which argued the penalty was "disproportionate to Sen Constable Frazer's admitted improper conduct", denied it had anything to do with a corruption inquiry.

"It is not appropriate to directly link this individual case to the final phase of the CMC's investigation into allegations of police misconduct on the Gold Coast – namely this week's public hearing exploring systemic organisational issues identified by Operation Tesco," a spokeswoman said.


Friday, September 24, 2010

CMC raid on Gold Coast cop's home allegedly finds drugs

In the latest blow for Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson, a Gold Coast officer has been stood down following a Crime and Misconduct Commission raid on his home.

The CMC has confirmed the raid on the constable's house at Burleigh Waters on Wednesday night, in which a quantity of drugs was allegedly found.

A CMC spokeswoman said the raid was not linked to Operation Tesco - the investigation mounted by the commission into alleged police misconduct on the Gold Coast.

Three officers have been stood down as a result of the operation and at least one is facing criminal charges.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Six Gold Coast police officers on steroids 'for no reason'

"Roid rage" behind some police violence?

Six Gold Coast police were found to be using anabolic steroids for no medical reason, the Crime and Misconduct Commission inquiry has been told. The Gold Coast's top cop, Superintendent Jim Keogh, on Tuesday told the Operation Tesco inquiry he suspected some younger officers were using steroids after complaints about excessive use of force during arrests.

Today, counsel assisting the inquiry, John Allen, questioned Queensland Police Services human resources director Patricia Jones about steroid use among police. He told the inquiry that six officers, most working in Surfers Paradise, were prescribed anabolic steroids by one doctor despite having no health problems.

Mr Allen said the officers wanted the steroids to counter tiredness, lethargy or because they 'were just wanting to be bigger'. The steroids would have been illegal if they were not given on prescription, Mr Allen said.

He said a steroid expert interviewed by the CMC said there was a tendency for non-medical users to take high doses and to sometimes mix them with black market steroids or illicit drugs, and some users could become angry and aggressive. Mr Allen suggested it might be 'of concern' that armed police might be using steroids.

Ms Jones said posters were placed in all police stations warning officers about the use of medication. She said officers suspected of being unfit for duty could be ordered to see an independent doctor.

Ms Jones said random drug testing was not carried out by the QPS but since 2005, 13,400 officers and recruits undergone 'reasonable suspicion' tests for drugs and alcohol. Only one positive drug test and four positive alcohol results had been returned, she said.

Ms Jones said random drug testing was estimated to cost about $500,000 a year and there were no plans to introduce it. "For $500,000, I could possibly employ four to five more police officers (so) the question becomes, 'what's the cost benefit?', she said.

Ms Jones said concerns about police abusing medication had to be balanced against privacy issues.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Officer-in-charge at Surfers Paradise supports culture of freebies

SURFERS Paradise's top cop saw nothing wrong with his officers receiving free drinks at nightclubs and half-price McDonald's meals. But he also called for police to be rotated through Surfers in six-month stints, Kings Cross-style, to reduce the chances of them falling victim to the party precinct's temptations.

The Crime and Misconduct Commission has raised serious conflict-of-interest concerns about police who provided "preferential treatment" to nightclubs in return for free hospitality. But the officer-in-charge of the Surfers Paradise station, Senior-Sergeant Martin Dimond, said freebies were acceptable providing police were not being compromised.

The first witness to give evidence at the CMC's Operation Tesco public hearings, Sen-Sgt Dimond was quizzed about public perceptions towards police receiving gifts and benefits. He said police had long received half-price McDonald's and other discounted meals and "the community are not concerned about it".

Sen-Sgt Dimond said he believed it was acceptable for police to receive free drinks at nightclubs as long as they were not providing favours, or getting greater benefits than the general public. He said some clubs liked to have off-duty police in their establishments to deter bikies. "I'm not aware of any public concern about that (off-duty officers receiving drinks)," Sen-Sgt Dimond told the inquiry.

However, he said senior police had ordered a ban on officers receiving nightclub hospitality in the wake of the CMC's Operation Tesco probe.

Sen-Sgt Dimond blamed some police misconduct on the fact that Surfers Paradise was a "stressful" place to work. He said Surfers police had to regularly deal with violent offenders and were often subjected to complaints. "In some situations, they (also) go home to a stressful environment and that's where problems (with misconduct) arise because there's no opportunity for them to get a break from the stress they're dealing with," he said.

Sen-Sgt Dimond said police in Sydney's Kings Cross were rotated in six-month stints and it "works very well". "They're not exposed continuously, over a number of years, to the high levels of stress," he said.

Sen-Sgt Dimond also said police numbers in Surfers Paradise needed to be doubled on Friday and Saturday nights. He said 126 police were allocated to Surfers, but an average of only 85 were available for duty, due to officers being on leave or seconded to other areas."


Police should face random drug and alcohol tests, officer tells watchdog

A Senior Gold Coast policeman has called for the introduction of random drug testing for officers and increased alcohol testing. Surfers Paradise police inspector Neil Haslam made the call today at a Crime and Misconduct Commission hearing which has heard evidence of Coast police taking and dealing drugs, drinking on duty and accepting free drinks at nightclubs.

Insp Haslam said random drug testing 'could assist' improve police behaviour and believed the frequency of random alcohol testing needed to be increased. But he rejected a suggestion from the counsel assisting the inquiry, John Allen, that police be drug-tested on every shift. "I'd say (that would be) completely impractical," he said. "Police officers are supposed to be performing their duty in the main, aren't the?. We need to get them out and about."

Insp Halman also said 'bad apples' need to be identified and weeded out while still at the police academy.

The hearing was told a former stripper and drug user had applied to join the Queensland Police Service and that one Gold Coast officer facing criminal charges had been disciplined while training at the academy.

Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson has already announced plans to toughen up recruiting standards.

Insp Haslman told the Operation Tesco hearing he believed there needed to be more rigorous vetting of police recruits. Insp Haslam said improved security checks and a 'zero tolerance ... of integrity failures' were needed to lift recruiting standards.

CMC chairman Martin Moynihan commented that 'one bad apple can have a very serious adverse affect' on the QPS.

Ins Haslam replied: "One bad apple has had a significent affect on the Gold Coast district and that's why we're here today."

Mr Moynihan later said there appeared to be 'more than two or three bad apples' among Gold Coast police.

Insp Haslam: "Mr Chairman, I'm not sure where the bad apples may be or who the bad apples may be with regard to my particular area of responsibility, but there may well be others."

The CMC has said it plans to lay charges against one current and one former officer and eight civilians. Disciplinary action against six officers is also expected to be recommended.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Gold Coast police face drugs charges

SERIOUS charges are set to be laid against 10 people, including current and former police, after allegations of Gold Coast police using drugs, associating with criminals and turning a blind eye to crimes including nightclub drug rapes. Six police are also facing disciplinary action as a result of the Crime and Misconduct Commission's Operation Tesco probe into Gold Coast police misconduct.

The first day of Operation Tesco's public hearings has heard explosive evidence of Coast police stroking the Glitter Strip's dark underbelly. In his opening address, counsel assisting the inquiry, John Allen, said Operation Tesco was sparked after eyewitness accounts of Gold Coast police taking drugs and being paid bribes by criminals for tip-offs.

Mr Allen said while the allegations were not proven, they were a 'significant trigger' for Tesco which had uncovered 'significant evidence' of police having improper associations with criminals and providing them with confidential information.

The inquiry was told drugs including 30 ecstasy pills and two bags of amphetamine were found during a raid in January this year on a Brisbane apartment where a Gold Coast police officer codenamed G7, and associates including a suspected drug supplier, were staying.

During secret hearings, officer G7 admitted to taking ecstasy, using and supply 'black market' steroids and receiving $100 drink cards at Surfers Paradise nightclubs and improperly processing bouncer licence applications. Officer G7 had also admitted to using the police computer to do criminal checks on girlfriends.

Another officer, D1, admitted to associating with drug dealers and said the receipt of free drinks was 'common knowledge' among senior police. He said Gold Coast police also received free McDonald's meals and tickets to Gold Coast Titans games.

The hearing was also told that the use of 'blue light taxis' to ferry off-duty officers, friends and family to and from nightclubs and social functions was a longstanding and accepted practice among Gold Coast police.

Mr Allen said there were reports some police whistleblowers were 'harassed, intimidated, victimised and humiliated' for co-operating with the inquiry.

He said the CMC expected to lay charges against one current and one former officer and recommend disciplinary action against a further six officers. "Criminal charges are also expected to be laid against eight civilians, most of those being in connection with serious drug offences," he said.

The hearing is set to run for five days and will continue this afternoon with the first police witnesses


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Surfers Paradise police inspector caught asleep on job

Another black mark for the Gold Coast wallopers. They seem to have no standards at all. And the police hierarchy are no better -- giving the slumbering cop no more than a slap on the wrist

A SENIOR Gold Coast police inspector has been busted for falling asleep on the job at one of Queensland's busiest stations. The inspector was on duty at the Surfers Paradise police station in May when he was spotted dozing in a room at the rear of the station.

At least one officer complained to management and the incident was subsequently investigated by the state's Ethical Standards Command. A police spokesman yesterday confirmed the officer had been disciplined and "reassigned" to other duties, but not demoted.

The embarrassing incident comes just days ahead of a Crime and Misconduct Commission Inquiry hearing into the behaviour of police officers on the Glitter Strip. Next week's CMC hearing, sparked by Operation Tesco, will examine alleged misconduct by Gold Coast officers, including drug use, accepting drinks at nightclubs and associating with known criminals.

A Surfers Paradise police officer told The Courier-Mail the dozing inspector had been witnessed by up to 30 other officers and that it was not the first time an officer had fallen asleep on the job. "I am not sure which is worse: the commissioned officer who was asleep or the others who allowed it to happen," he said. "What sort of example is this setting to junior officers if their superiors are sleeping on the job?"

The incident happened on a weekend night shift, a traditionally busy period.

The officer, who asked not to be named, said many officers simply turned a blind eye to unprofessional behaviour. "The culture of protecting wrongdoers is alive and well," he said.

A police spokesman said the incident was investigated and appropriate action was taken. "The officer concerned received managerial guidance," he said. "He remains in an operational role within the South Eastern Police Region."

Three serving, or former, Gold Coast officers have been stood down as part of the Tesco probe and at least one is facing criminal charges. Dozens of Gold Coast police have appeared at the CMC's secret "star chamber" hearings, forced to give evidence against allegedly crooked colleagues under threat of being jailed for contempt.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Gold Coast cop caught in drug bust

The cloud over Gold Coast police has darkened, after the suspension of a constable following a drug raid by the Crime and Misconduct Commission. Officers with the CMC raided the Burleigh Waters home of the 38-year-old constable on Wednesday night, allegedly seizing marijuana.

A CMC spokeswoman said the investigation was not related to the wider Gold Coast operation being conducted by the commission. Operation Tesco is investigating allegations of inappropriate police associations with criminals, the acceptance of gifts and "gratuities", the misuse of confidential information and drug use.

Two police stations have been raided in the course of Operation Tesco and three officers suspended, including a female constable who has since quit the QPS. At least 50 other police have been interviewed by the CMC during the investigation and public hearings will be held by the CMC in Brisbane later this month.

Queensland police are also believed to be investigating allegations that an officer seconded to the Australian Federal Police exposed himself to a woman at Tugun on Monday. The victim noted the alleged offender's number plate, which reportedly corresponded to that of an officer.

A QPS spokesman confirmed an investigation was in progress but said it would be "inappropriate to comment further given the sensitive stage of the matter".


Friday, September 10, 2010

Queensland Police under siege as complaints skyrocket

The rot starts at the top with a culture of coverup at all costs. Top cop Atkinson needs to be removed -- and his Deputy too

COMPLAINTS against police are up by almost a quarter in the past year with an average of eight officers a day being accused of offences ranging from sexual misconduct to assault. In the 12 months to June 30, 3011 complaints were received by the Ethical Standards Command compared with 2443 last year.

More than one in four of those complaints related to police behaviour that was allegedly "disgraceful, improper or unbecoming of an officer", while more than 600 complaints accused police of assault. There were more than 20 complaints of sexual misconduct, 60 of misappropriation or theft and more than 10 traffic offence matters.

About one in four complaints were made by police themselves against fellow officers, with the remainder lodged by members of the public or referred to police by the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

A Queensland Police Service spokeswoman said "extensive media coverage" of the QPS may have contributed to the higher levels of complaints. "The QPS takes all complaints seriously and is constantly monitoring the number and nature of complaints received," she said. "The service is also continuing to review and examine all aspects of the increase in reported complaints to identify the primary contributing factors."

Complaints referred by police to the CMC as well as those made directly to the anti-corruption body jumped 23 per cent to 2529 in 2009-10. "Of those complaints against police, the CMC assessed 2518 matters, referring 2280 to the QPS to deal with subject to monitoring by the CMC," said a commission spokeswoman.

The mountain of alleged offences has created a huge backlog of work for the police Ethical Standards Command with 1145 investigations open on March 31. Of those, 14 were more than two years old and another 74 more than 12 months old.

State Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek said the figures showed why the police discipline process needed to be overhauled. "Complaints against police shouldn't be taking more than a year to be resolved and police shouldn't be off-duty for months on end waiting for an investigation to be finalised," Mr Langbroek said. "If action is necessary it should be taken and taken quickly."

Police Minister Neil Roberts said only 3.6 per cent of complaints made in 2009 were substantiated. "Police interact with members of the public on a daily basis and it's important to remember that the majority of these interactions occur in a very emotive environment."

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said he had discussed ways to streamline the police complaints process with QPS senior management and the CMC but as yet no reforms had been undertaken.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Watchdog says top cop covered up unwarranted violence by police

Is the culture of corruption becoming a little bit unglued at last?

QUEENSLAND'S crime watchdog has launched a legal challenge against a top cop who'll decide the fate of police who investigated the Palm Island death in custody. The Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) today told AAP it had filed legal action against Deputy Police Commissioner Kathy Rynders.

The challenge relates to Ms Rynders' handling of allegations that a senior officer seriously injured a 15-year-old suspect during an arrest in May 2007, The Australian newspaper said.

It said the boy needed hospital care for a ruptured spleen following his arrest. But Ms Rynders, in a ruling sent to the CMC, found allegations the injury was caused by an arresting officer were unsubstantiated, the paper said.

The CMC has filed an application for Queensland's Civil and Administrative Tribunal to review Ms Rynders' decision not to sack the officer.

Just last month, Ms Rynders was given the job of deciding how to discipline six police involved in flawed investigations into Cameron Doomadgee's 2004 death at the Palm Island watchhouse. Mr Doomadgee suffered broken ribs, a ruptured spleen and a liver almost split in two when he died at the police station.

Arresting officer Chris Hurley was ultimately acquitted over his death.

Ms Rynders was given the job of disciplining the six after a court ruled someone other than Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson should do it, because he could be seen as biased.

The court ruling followed a damning CMC report, released in June. It found serious flaws in the initial investigation - conducted by four officers who fraternised with Mr Doomadgee's arresting officer - and errors in a subsequent internal review by two senior officers.

At the time, CMC chairman Martin Moynihan also accused Mr Atkinson of presiding of a culture of self-protection within the police service.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Queensland police told to boost random street checks

As in the days of Terry Lewis, the rot starts at the top among the Qld. wallopers

INNOCENT people, including elderly women, are being caught in a police competition to clock up the highest tally of random "street checks".

In a move that has upset rank-and-file officers, senior police are demanding beat cops rack up the checks at every opportunity. Street checks usually involve stopping a person, asking what they are doing, where they are going and taking note of their name, address and identifying details such as their clothing.

The Queensland Police Service admitted regional management encouraged the checks, as they "demonstrated to potential offenders that police are about and have noted their presence". It denied there were quotas. "They also demonstrate to the community that police are about, stopping people, talking to people and making themselves aware of who is spending time in the local area," a QPS spokesman said.

Although police have the power to request such information, they can demand identification details only in "prescribed circumstances", such as when someone may be able to help an investigation or is suspected of a crime. The information is stored by police intelligence and used to help identify potential suspects or witnesses near crime scenes.

But disgruntled officers from Brisbane's Metropolitan South region said it had become "purely about the numbers" and even elderly women were being street-checked. "It's a matter of 'who's got the most'. The chief superintendent will say 'Morningside's done 59, what have you got?'," a Wynnum district officer said. "We've had 73 and 76-year-old women getting street-checked simply to boost figures. We don't have any power to demand any details off them. It's all purely bluff."

Sam Ward, 28, said he was embarrassed when police officers stopped him as he walked along the footpath at Yeronga one morning this year after buying a newspaper. He said he was stopped outside his neighbour's house and asked a series of questions about what he was doing. "They were nice cops but still, if I had the choice, I would rather it had not have happened," Mr Ward said. "They told me they have to take down a certain amount of names each shift or their boss will think they have done nothing."

The Queensland Police Union said street checks should be about "quality, not quantity". "It is becoming increasingly clear that some senior police are wanting police on the beat to undertake street checks purely to drive up the quota on the number of street checks performed in any given period, for the purposes of better Operational Performance Review figures," union president Ian Leavers said. "Police have no problem conducting legitimate and beneficial street checks. However they see no benefit in asking random people for their identification details."

A Queensland Police Service spokesman said there was no quota for street checks but "shift objectives may be set which may include officers being required to complete street checks during their rostered shifts". "Police have the power/entitlement to speak to persons irrespective of whether they are suspected of committing a crime," he said.

But Michael Cope of the Queensland Council of Civil Liberties said police were taking advantage of ordinary people's ignorance. "Because people don't know they're not obliged to answer these questions, police are collecting all this information for no obvious reason," Mr Cope said. He said the QCCL regularly received complaints about the practice and had written to the Police Service expressing its concern. "Most people will supply them with information because they think they have to," he said. "There's the implication that if they don't, they'll be carted off down the station."