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.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Victoria's top cop goes too far

An editorial from the Herald Sun

WHEN does a police force cross the line from protection of the community to an intrusion into its legitimate affairs?

Victoria Police and Chief Commissioner Simon Overland have done that by secretly gaining access to the private telephone records of this newspaper in a witch-hunt for whistleblowers within its own ranks.

The Herald Sun freely admits it has embarrassed Chief Commissioner Overland by exposing the blunders within his own office. That is the job of a free and independent newspaper in holding not only Mr Overland to the utmost scrutiny, but also the Government that appointed him.

But legitimate scrutiny is not what the police force is doing in the case of the Herald Sun and perhaps other companies going about their daily business.

The police have paid telecommunication providers for access to phone records in the hope of identifying any of its members who might have spoken to our journalists.

It is ironic that we were alerted by police officers who, like us, think the surveillance is potentially dangerous and at the very least unwarranted.

If Mr Overland wants to close down any conversations between his officers and Herald Sun journalists, to the extent of controlling their every word through his media office, that is his concern. Spying on its members might also be a concern of the Police Association.

What is our concern is that the Chief Commissioner is not only using taxpayer money, he is diverting these funds from the pursuit of criminal matters. Better that he spend the community's money on preventing murders by criminal gangs and outlaw bikies, who have transferred their drug-related activities to Victoria after crackdowns in other states.

The Herald Sun, in its Right to Know campaign, is pushing for national shield laws for journalists to protect whistleblowers as much as the journalists they speak to. It is these witnesses to government and bureaucratic maladministration who keep institutions honest. This is right and proper and Victoria Police is one such institution whose own members are best placed to watch for similar excesses.

But just how far does police surveillance intrude into the business of companies other than the Herald Sun? Does it extend to even the higher echelons of the Victorian Government? How long has this surveillance being going and will these records be destroyed? Where are the checks and balances and what other investigations have been hindered as money has been diverted?

Tapping phone conversations requires a court order from a judge and the Herald Sun argues that the monitoring engaged in by the Victoria Police requires the same judicial oversight. Under its current code of intrusion, it needs only an inspector to sign off on an order to save what Mr Overland might consider an embarrassment.

The next phone call the Chief Commissioner receives should be from Premier John Brumby to tell him to get on with the job of catching criminals.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Top NSW cop tries to bribe TV station over harassment of lawyer

And the dumb copper did it in front of witnesses! The lawyer has repeatedly got big damages settlements from the NSW wallopers over their mistreatment of him so it is clear where the fault lies. They clearly have a vendetta against him and haven't yet learned their lesson. Pic of the genius cop below

A senior NSW police officer has been accused of behaving corruptly in his media management of the force's dispute with the prominent Muslim lawyer Adam Houda. Frank Mennilli, a NSW police assistant commissioner and the South-West Metropolitan Region commander, sought favourable television coverage of police in Mr Houda's case from Channel Seven in exchange for inside information, Mr Houda's lawyer, Chris Murphy, says.

However, Mr Mennilli rejects the allegations and intends to complain to Seven about its report on the case.

The Herald reported on Saturday that Mr Houda was preparing to sue police again after being detained, while walking near his home, for the fourth time in three years.

Mr Houda, 35, who has represented several clients accused of terrorism-related offences and managed the career of the former rugby league player Hazem El Masri, says the arrest was the worst example yet of racial vilification and brutality. Previous incidents have led to an apology and two police compensation payouts.

In a complaint to the NSW Ombudsman, Mr Murphy alleges Mr Mennilli said "a number of things which I believe amount to corrupt conduct" in a conversation with a Channel Seven journalist, Adam Walters, and two colleagues as they prepared the lead story for Saturday's news. Mr Murphy alleges Mr Mennilli said "that if Walters favoured police in his reporting he would be rewarded with future scoops and he was told of a major police operation next Thursday".

Mr Walters "regarded the offer as an attempted bribe and indicated to the assistant commissioner he was insulted and would not be party to it", Mr Murphy said. "He indicated to me [yesterday] that he filed a report with Channel Seven management complaining about the conduct of the assistant commissioner."

Police told the Herald on Friday that Mr Houda was stopped because they were conducting "proactive patrols in the Yagoona area following a series of robberies involving knives". They would not reveal the locations of the robberies or suspects' descriptions.

But Mr Murphy said: "Mennilli showed [Walters] police intelligence reports of crime in surrounding suburbs involving robbery. Interestingly none of the robberies were in Yagoona and three of them involved young people [aged in their teens]."

He also said the two officers accused of using excessive violence in Mr Houda's arrest on Thursday delivered a summons at his home at 9pm on Sunday, an experience that was "terrifying to the Houda family and to Mr Houda, who suffers a serious heart problem". "The police are ganging up on Mr Houda right to the highest levels," he alleged, calling for the Ombudsman to "show some strength".

Mr Mennilli said in a statement yesterday that he "strongly reject[s] the allegations". He said he had instructed police public affairs to lodge a formal complaint with Seven after the Saturday broadcast. But the broadcast did not contain the allegations of media manipulation. [Dumb copper again!]


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Deliberate police harassment of Muslim lawyer

Expensive for the taxpayer

The high-profile Muslim lawyer Adam Houda has been arrested again while walking near his home in what he says is the most outrageous example yet of racial vilification, harassment and brutality by police.

The incident brings to five the number of times Mr Houda has been arrested or detained in the past decade, including a well-publicised occasion involving the former Bulldogs rugby league player Hazem El Masri.

None of the earlier incidents led to a conviction, instead they produced apologies and more than $150,000 in compensation from the NSW police.

At about 8pm on Thursday, Mr Houda was walking near his Yagoona home with his brother Bassam and friend Mohammed Hawa when they were asked for identification by two plainclothes police officers in an unmarked car.

When Mr Houda asked why, they said they were investigating a robbery and he fitted the suspect's description. "We were polite the whole time," Mr Houda said. "When it became too silly for words, I said 'Look, am I under arrest for anything?"'

When the more senior officer said no, Mr Houda said he began walking towards his home and was grabbed and handcuffed by the other officer, causing "excruciating pain" to his wrist. "It got to the point where I felt I was going to pass out," Mr Houda, 35, who suffers from a heart condition, said.

Mr Houda said five other police arrived and he was placed in the back of a paddy wagon, taken to Bankstown police station, locked in a cell without his medication and not allowed to call a lawyer or a support person.

The devout Lebanese Muslim, who has represented terrorism-accused clients such as Belal Khazaal and Izhar ul-Haque, has welts on his wrists and symptoms consistent with neuroplaxia in his left hand, his doctor, Jamal Rifi, said.

Mr Houda received $145,000 in compensation after he was wrongfully arrested at Burwood Local Court in 2000 and an apology after he and El Masri were surrounded by nine police in 2007 when they refused to provide identification outside a Regents Park cafe.

Thursday was the third time since 2007 that he has been detained while walking near his Yagoona home and he received a confidential payout after suing over the previous arrest, last year.

Mr Houda said he has audio recordings of Thursday's arrest and intends to sue the police and report it to the Police Commissioner, the Ombudsman and the Police Integrity Commission.

Dr Rifi, who is on a community policing advisory group to the Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, said his experience was similar to many others in Sydney's Lebanese Muslim community.

But the South West Metropolitan Region Commander, Assistant Commissioner Frank Mennilli, said Mr Houda did not comply with a lawful direction from police and would receive a summons "for not complying with a request to submit to a search and resist arrest".

"Police officers were conducting proactive patrols in the Yagoona area following a series of robberies involving knives," he said.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Useless police again

The neighbour of a woman bashed to death in her Adelaide Hills home by a mystery intruder believes she called the police for help 16 hours before her body was found.

Retired nurse Pirjo Kemppainen moved from Finland 15 years ago for a quiet life in the village of Callington, near Mt Barker near Adelaide. Now she is dead, the victim of an apparently motiveless murder that has shocked the community.

Her killer or killers remained on the loose last night, and police and State Emergency Service volunteers will today continue scouring the area for clues. It is not known if a weapon was used in the murder.

A neighbour told The Advertiser he believed 63-year-old Ms Kemppainen, a retired nurse who lived alone, had called police at about 12.30am Saturday after hearing noises in her yard. Her battered body was found by her brother at 5pm.

When asked if the murder victim had made a call for help, Major Crime Detective Acting Superintendent Denise Gray said she would not comment.

Forensic investigators yesterday removed a ramp leading to Ms Kemppainen's back door, which had been smashed above the handle. Investigators paid particular attention to a section of wire fence at the front of her property, which was damaged and bent. The fence runs adjacent to a public walkway that follows the Bremer River and is frequently used as a shortcut for locals walking home from the Dog 'n' Ute Callington Hotel.

Distraught relatives told The Advertiser Ms Kemppainen was a defenceless woman who could have lain injured for hours before dying. "We found out late this morning that she'd been brutally bashed by somebody," relative Kylie Kemppainen said. "I don't know how long she was left there, whether they bashed her to death or whether they just left her to die on her own."


Friday, September 10, 2010

Lazy Victoria police lose chance to prosecute drunken footballer

CHIEF Commissioner Simon Overland has been left struggling to explain Victoria Police's bungled investigations into Brendan Fevola's Brownlow antics.

The Victoria Police media department last night confirmed twice to the Herald Sun that it intended to charge Fevola over his behaviour last September.

But in an embarrassing backflip for the force, police today conceded they had left it too long to build a case. "Victoria Police have reviewed the situation regarding Brendan Fevola and the incident last September," police said in a statement. "We can confirm that Victoria Police will be taking no further action in relation to this matter."

An officer from the force’s Region One unit was meant to issue an infringement, but let it lapse. Inspector Richard Read said the delay made it unfair to penalise Fevola. Victoria Police admitted an officer would be "counselled".

"We believe that it would be unreasonable to take any further action on this matter so long after the events. We accept that the matter should have been dealt with in a much more timely manner, and the police member responsible will be counselled," a spokesman said.

"Brendan Fevola deserves to be treated in the same manner that we would treat any other member of the public, and we are clear that our decisions should not be influenced by his high profile status."

September 21 is the anniversary of the 2009 count, after which Fevola could not be charged under the statute of limitations. The likely charge was going to be being drunk in a public place.