Wednesday, September 29, 2010

No integrity at Victoria's Office of Police Integrity

The OPI has been suspect for a long time and this would appear to seal it

THE head of Victoria's police watchdog admits its reputation has been harmed by the discovery of sensitive documents during a drug raid.

Victoria Police are investigating whether the former head of intelligence and phone tapping at the Office of Police Integrity stole the documents, which were found in a box in a garage in Melbourne's north on September 10.

The suspected criminal whose home was raided is believed to be in a relationship with the former OPI official under investigation.

OPI director Michael Strong said the discovery of the documents, along with others from ASIO and an anti-corruption body in Western Australia, was a "major security" breach and they were "shocked and alarmed" by what had happened.

"Anything like this impacts adversely on our credibility and I am concerned about that and it's a pity that it has happened," Mr Strong told Fairfax radio this morning.

Mr Strong said his senior staff had "assured him" there was no risk to any member of the police force or the public despite the files being sensitive and containing names. "There are no missing files, there are some copied documents and notes that were found in a box at certain premises," he said.

Mr Strong said the employee was the head of phone tapping until November last year and it appeared she may have breached the OPI's policy of removing documents. "She came to us with an impeccable security record," Mr Strong said. "It appears that the employee on the way has gathered documents from her other employment." He denied the incident undermined the work of the OPI, saying it had been "travelling well".

Opposition leader Ted Baillieu said the latest incident proved the OPI had "run its race". "I think it's almost impossible for Victorians to now have confidence in the OPI," he said. "There have been a series of issues, this is the latest one, and I think the OPI in its current form has run its race."

Victoria Police chief commissioner Simon Overland also said he did not believe police or individuals' safety had been compromised by the OPI/Victoria Police files. He said the ASIO document found was an acknowledgment of a job application and would not constitute a threat to ASIO or national security.

"Obviously it's a concern that this material has found its way out of the organisation," he told Fairfax Radio. He confirmed some of the material found related to Victoria Police but had come from the offices of the OPI.


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