Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gone at last

Victoria's chief police commissioner Simon Overland says he resigned because the recent controversies engulfing the force made it counterproductive for him to continue. Mr Overland's resignation came hours after the release of a Victorian ombudsman's report which found he was solely responsible for releasing misleading and inconsistent crime statistics before the last state election.

But he told a press conference the report was not the straw that broke the camel's back, rather, his resignation was a culmination of months of controversy that was distracting for the organisation. "I now regrettably find myself in a position where I believe it's in the best interests of Victoria and Victoria Police that I leave," Mr Overland told reporters on Thursday.

"I've always sought to act in the best interests of the organisation in an honourable way and I believe this is the appropriate thing to do.

"There's been a lot of distractions in the last little while and it seems to me they are unlikely to abate. "It got to a position where my continuing in the role was counterproductive to the best interests of the organisation."

Mr Overland was supported by a contingent of senior police and other staff members during the press conference at the Victoria Police Centre. Some of his support staff were in tears. He said he was not pressured to resign by the government.

About an hour earlier, the news that he would be resigning broke at a press conference with Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu and Deputy Premier Peter Ryan.

Mr Ryan said he rang Mr Overland on Wednesday night and expressed his concerns over the ombudsman's report. When pressed on whether he asked or told Mr Overland to resign, Mr Ryan refused to reveal the details of their conversation. "We talked about the content of the report, he then indicated his intention to resign and I indicated the government's preparedness to accept that resignation," he said.

Mr Overland has for months insisted he intended to serve out his contract, which was due to expire in less than three years.

The resignation of Mr Overland comes after months of pressure on the police chief commissioner. Although standing by Mr Overland, the state government had ordered an investigation into senior command of Victoria Police after Mr Overland forced out his deputy Sir Ken Jones.

Mr Overland ordered Sir Ken to leave Victoria Police three months before he intended to quit, for reasons that were never fully explained. It was also confirmed that after a complaint from Mr Overland and others the state's police watchdog, the Office of Police Integrity, had been tapping Sir Ken's phones.

Mr Baillieu said there would be an appropriate selection process before the next chief commissioner was appointed and consultants would be used. When asked whether Sir Ken would be in the running, Mr Baillieu replied: "Well the process will be available to anybody who seeks to apply and we wouldn't be seeking to make any comment about that."

Mr Baillieu said the government wanted to appoint a new chief commissioner as soon as possible.

Deputy commissioner Ken Lay will be acting chief commissioner. Mr Overland's resignation officially takes effect from July 1, but he will go on leave at the end of the working day on Thursday.


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