Monday, September 24, 2012

The big grabber urged to 'stop rot' in NSW police

"Scipione" is Italian for "the big grabber" as far as I can tell:  Not reassuring in the head of a police force.  I like Italians but corruption is normal in Italy so I would never have an Italian heading a police force -- not even a half-Irish one

SENIOR NSW police have called on the Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, to "stop the rot" and respond to growing allegations of possible wrongdoing and corruption by high-ranking officers.

The contents of a secret NSW Police report, published in The Sun-Herald yesterday, alleges the Deputy Commissioner, Catherine Burn, "may have participated in police corruption" during an undercover operation.  The report, written in 2004, examined complaints against Ms Burn and other officers while they were working in the Special Crime and Internal Affairs Unit.

The allegations include that the unit induced a criminal to breach his bail in a bid to gather evidence on a police officer and then influenced him to "perjure" himself under oath.

The complaints were examined by Strike Force Emblems, which also found the unit may have engaged in "criminal conduct" when it bugged 100 serving and former police. Ms Burn was team leader within the unit at that time.

Senior police spoken to by the Herald said the allegations were affecting the public's perception of the force's senior ranks. The Herald makes no suggestion Ms Burn is corrupt.

The Greens MP David Shoebridge said the latest developments strengthened the need for a full judicial inquiry. With the Crime Commission, police internal affairs and the Police Integrity Commission all potentially compromised, he said there was no watchdog that could undertake a proper, independent investigation.

The Premier, Barry O'Farrell, yesterday said he was "concerned about the continuing fallout from [Strike Force] Emblems".

One Assistant Commissioner said Mr Scipione must sort out the mess. "Where is the Commissioner on this? He needs to come out and put a stop to all the rot that's going on."


Melbourne bashing victim calls for ticket inspector inquiry

FOUR undercover ticket inspectors allegedly involved in the brutal bashing of a man at Dennis train station haven't been investigated internally.

Michael Aravopoulos, 49, claims he was punched, sat on, restrained and had his head pushed into the bitumen after being followed off the Hurstbridge line train in April 2008.

The disability pensioner, who spent 12 days in hospital, claims he produced a validated ticket and pension card when asked by a Connex officer, and was tormented as he tried to get the card back.

Two of the inspectors are employed as authorised officers by current train operator Metro, one works in a non-enforcement role and one resigned in 2010.

Mr Aravopoulos said the Department of Transport should investigate.  "There's a cover-up," he said.

Responding to a question on notice from Greens MP Greg Barber, Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder said Victoria Police told the DOT it would investigate.  "So DOT did not conduct an investigation. DOT was not advised of the allegations of excessive use of force by the authorised officers at the time police initially investigated the matter," Mr Mulder told Parliament.

Mr Barber told the Herald Sun that authorised officers had police-like powers but "nothing like the oversight of police".  "Department of Transport needs to run its own investigation because it has a different set of responsibilities for supervision of authorised officers," he said.

Department spokeswoman Jo Weeks said it had co-operated with the police investigation.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Federal police coverup

The Australian Federal Police is trying to stop the release of damaging details of its dealings with the Indonesian government over the Schapelle Corby drug bust, arguing that they would damage international relations and expose crucial ways in which the organisation operates.

Schapelle's sister Mercedes has been locked in a battle with the federal police to release all communications relating to the case.

If, in the coming days, a court judge rules in her favour, previously hidden details about the case would emerge, including vital police intelligence that may have been shared with Indonesia - before and after Schapelle's arrest in 2004.

Using freedom-of-information laws, Mercedes has sought all emails, letters, files, documents and transcripts involving the then AFP commissioner, Mick Keelty, which relate to Schapelle, including full details of communications between him and Indonesian authorities.

There are almost 300 related documents but the AFP has refused to release many and redacted large parts of others on the grounds that they "may cause damage to the international relations of the Commonwealth" and would divulge information which was "communicated in confidence by, or on behalf of, a foreign government to the Commonwealth".

The Sun-Herald can reveal that in early July Mercedes Corby appealed against the AFP's decision in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in Brisbane, where both parties argued their case before the deputy president P.E. Hack. She told the tribunal she had been fighting on Schapelle's behalf for eight years.

But Mr Hack warned Mercedes that any intelligence the federal police handed over to her would also be publicly available. "Once it's available to you, it's available to the world … including people who have an interest in knowing the way in which the AFP undertakes their task," he said. Mercedes responded: "We have so many questions and no answers."

While the Corby family once claimed they had no links to marijuana, Queensland Police Service archives confirm Schapelle's father Mick was arrested twice in 1973 for possessing and using cannabis. Fast forward to 2004 and three weeks before Schapelle's arrest, Mr Corby was implicated in a "Queensland Police Crime Intelligence report" as being part of a Gold Coast syndicate that was transporting drugs to Bali - using commercial passenger flights. In those statements a police informant, Kim Moore, claimed Tony Lewis - Mick Corby's best friend and next-door neighbour - was running a marijuana operation on his property. When police raided him days later, they found 200 plants and stockpiles of vacuum-sealed cannabis stored in freezers, worth more than $600,000.

Ms Moore also made further allegations about drugs being shipped to Bali on passenger jets. On October 8 - 22 days later - Schapelle was arrested with 4.2 kilograms of cannabis at Denpasar Airport.

It remains unclear whether Ms Moore's statement, and other information, was forwarded as part of the same intelligence-sharing arrangement with Indonesia that saw the Bali nine arrested seven months later. However, those answers could now be days away if Mr Hack decides the AFP is duty-bound to release files.

The AFP was represented at the tribunal by the top legal firm Clayton Utz, and AFP officers gave evidence via video link in Canberra. The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Vivienne Thom, also submitted an affidavit. Mercedes Corby represented herself, with assistance from a Queensland woman, Diane Frola, director of the Australian UFO Research Network.

During the three-day hearing, AFP Commander Fiona Drennan gave evidence that some documents contained communication between Mr Keelty and the Indonesians, and to reveal those interactions would damage relations between the two nations. Mr Hack said: "So I suppose, yes, in a lot of ways there was … more than Ms Corby happening in Indonesia in the period between 2004 and 2005."

Parts of a document titled "The Prosecution of Ms Schapelle Corby in Bali for Drug Trafficking" were redacted on the basis that it contained a confidential source of information.

At one stage, Mercedes and Ms Frola were asked to leave the courtroom so the AFP could divulge information contained in the files. Intriguingly, a May 2005 Corby-related letter from Mr Keelty to then South Australian Police Commissioner Mal Hyde was blacked out. The court was also told the AFP "can't find" a letter Mr Hyde sent to Mr Keelty in December that year.


Bugging heat on top brass of NSW cops

One of the leading contenders to become the state's next police commissioner "may have participated in police corruption", according to a secret report.

The report, written in 2004, examined complaints against Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn and other officers while they were working in the Special Crime and Internal Affairs unit. The revelations are contained in the second report of Strike Force Emblems. Two weeks ago The Sun-Herald reported the first report found there may have been "criminal conduct" in the bugging of 100 serving and former police.

The second report found there was no evidence to support criminal or disciplinary charges. The Sun-Herald does not suggest Ms Burn is corrupt. But the report said investigators were denied access to crucial documents.

Internal NSW Police emails have also been obtained that reveal the NSW Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, was told of possible corruption in SCIA more than a decade ago.

One email to Mr Scipione included an allegation that SCIA allowed a heroin dealer to continue selling drugs on the northern beaches - potentially causing deaths - so the special crime unit might have more time to entrap corrupt police.

It said there was a concern some of the dealer's customers had "injected the product and subsequently died".

Mr Scipione forwarded the email to the then deputy commissioner, Ken Moroney, noting it raised "some very serious concerns".

On Friday The Sun-Herald sent a series of questions to Mr Scipione. He refused to answer them, saying: "It would be totally inappropriate to comment on any matter currently the subject of a review by the Inspector of the Police Integrity Commission."

Ms Burn also refused to comment.

Mr Scipione has previously said he has not read reports by Emblems.

However, the revelations will put further pressure on the government for an independent judicial inquiry into the activities of SCIA, set up in the late 1990s to root out corruption.

The report is one of at least two by Emblems. It was set up in mid-2003 to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by officers within SCIA who worked under the umbrella of the secretive NSW Crime Commission.

Two weeks ago The Sun-Herald revealed that the first report found "criminal conduct" and revenge may have been behind an SCIA and crime commission operation that involved the bugging of the police officers.

Ms Burn was a team leader within SCIA at the time of the bugging. One of the officers she and her colleagues secretly investigated and recorded was Nick Kaldas, now the other deputy commissioner. Both are potential successors to Mr Scipione.

The second Emblems report looked at whether police attached to SCIA, including Ms Burn, induced a criminal to breach his bail in a bid to gather evidence on a police officer.

It also investigated whether the same criminal was "influenced" by SCIA officers to "perjure himself, under oath, by giving false and misleading evidence". Under the heading "Code of conduct and ethics", the second report says: "In the absence of any further evidence or information, it appears on face value … involved officers within this complaint may have participated in police corruption as defined by the NSW Police code of conduct and ethics. Within this code, it is incumbent upon police officers to report allegations of suspected corruption".

Under the heading "Police involved" it names Ms Burn and three other officers, all of whom have been promoted. One is now a member of the Australian Federal Police.

The report says there is no evidence to bring criminal or disciplinary charges against any of the officers, including Ms Burn. But it repeatedly states Emblems investigators were denied access to documents and witnesses by the Crime Commission.

The report says the complaint affecting Ms Burn and the three other officers stemmed from a kidnapping and armed robbery in Coffs Harbour in 1994. It says career criminals Terry Blewett and Craig Cant, and a third man, broke into the home of the night manager of the Coffs Harbour ex-services club. At gunpoint, they tied up the man's naked wife and kidnapped him and drove him to the club. But the club's safe was on a time delay and the robbery failed. The three were charged in 1994. One of the police involved in the arrests was a Coffs Harbour detective, Peter Burgess.

The second Emblems report says that, in February 1999, SCIA and the NSW Crime Commission started a covert investigation into police corruption called Operation Mascot. They recruited a corrupt police officer, codenamed M5, who secretly recording his colleagues for 2½ years. He alleged wrongdoing in the arrest of Blewett and the two others.

SCIA then targeted several detectives, including Mr Burgess, who was relatively junior. Mr Burgess has never been charged with any offence. He denies any wrongdoing.

In an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald before this latest report was leaked, he told how the saga had turned his life upside down.

By May 1999 the third man in the kidnap and robbery had become an informer for SCIA. He was on bail. One bail condition was that he not approach any witnesses in his case. Mr Burgess was going to be a witness.

The Emblems report says that on May 3 that year, SCIA officers orchestrated a meeting between the third man and Mr Burgess, who by this time had quit the police and was working in a Kempsey pawnbroking business.

They wired the third man and sent him into the shop but Mr Burgess gave him short shrift. A second attempt to get information failed. Mr Burgess complained to police.

The Emblems report says on September 23, 1999, the third man was brought before Coffs Harbour District Court on the breach of bail. He told the court he had been surprised to see Mr Burgess in the shop. "I asked Mr Burgess whether he remembered me … it was as much of a surprise for me to see him there as for him to see me, I guess."

The Emblems report says: "On face value, the evidence given by [the third man] is clearly false and misleading." The Emblems report said SCIA officers involved denied knowing of the man's the bail conditions. One said he had acted "as per directions from superintendent [Cath] Burn".

The unanswered questions:

The Sun-Herald put the following questions to police chief Andrew Scipione.

In late 2001, was Mr Scipione warned, or alerted to, serious concerns that SCIA was engaged in possible wrongdoing?

If Mr Scipione was aware of serious concerns about possible wrongdoing within SCIA, apart from informing his superiors, what did he, as commander, personally do about it?

Why has Mr Scipione said, or implied, that he hasn't read the [Strike Force] Emblems report because he is bound by secrecy provisions?

Was Mr Scipione ever warned some SCIA officers were concerned that drug dealers identified by SCIA had not been arrested but allowed to continue to sell their drugs and that heroin users may have died as a result?


Dumb Victorian cops

SOUTH Australian motorists are being fined by Victorian police for not displaying registration stickers - despite the labels being abolished more than a year ago.

Concerns that hundreds of Adelaide fans who drove to Melbourne for yesterday's AFL preliminary final would be targeted by Victorian officers ignorant of SA's rego laws prompted an appeal on Friday by Public Sector Minister Michael O'Brien to Victorian Police Minister Paul Ryan.

"The South Australian Government would appreciate a reminder being issued by Victoria Police command to officers of the legal situation and their ability to verify registration by entering licence plate details into the electronic database," Mr O'Brien wrote on Friday.

Yesterday, he said some Victorian police were "causing aggravation and inconvenience for SA motorists" who are not breaking the law: "There is no offence committed and Victorian police should damn well know that and there's no excuse so it's a case of harassment."

Independent State MPs John Darley and Bob Such raised the issue with Mr O'Brien after being contacted by SA motorists who had recently been fined for not displaying a rego sticker.

Mr Darley said he knew of two motorists who were fined in the past four weeks. "I understand they had to get confirmation from motor registration that their cars were registered and send that to Victoria Police to have the fines withdrawn," Mr Darley said.

Stawell police acting sergeant Mark Stevens admitted yesterday there had been an "anomaly" where SA motorists had been fined after the law change. "We had a statewide email go out (approximately two months ago) saying SA motorists were not required to have a sticker," he said yesterday.

The stickers were abolished in July last year in order to save $2 million a year.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Scum West Australian cop

WEST Australian police are reviewing an adverse finding against an inspector accused of failing to respond to complaints about a serial pedophile at a state-run hostel.

Inspector William Todd was the officer in charge at Katanning police station in the mid-1980s when convicted pedophile Dennis McKenna was abusing boys at the town's St Andrews Hostel.

Inspector Todd told an inquiry led by former Supreme Court Justice Peter Blaxell in March that nobody had complained to him about McKenna.

However, Maggie Dawkins, who was a group leader for a state government youth training and employment project at the time, told the inquiry she had spoken to Inspector Todd about McKenna, but no action was taken.

"Inspector Todd must bear the major responsibility for the failure of Mrs Dawkins' persistent efforts to have the matter properly investigated," Mr Blaxell said in a report released yesterday.

Mrs Dawkins said today she didn't understand the reasons for the adverse finding against Inspector Todd, saying she had only sought advice from him.

"He explained to me that I needed to bring the (abused) boy in and he needed to make a statement," Mrs Dawkins told ABC radio.  "Well, the boy didn't want to do that. He was traumatised, he was humiliated, and when I couldn't do that I was told he needed dates and times and that sort of stuff.

"I accepted that, and he (Inspector Todd) told me to go to my superiors in the department and I did that."

She believed he had provided the right advice, but added, "I'm not a lawyer."

"When I went to people in authority in the community and my employers, I thought that they would take the allegations seriously.  "But what they did - because Dennis McKenna was so clever, he was able to build this manipulative sort of falsehood about me so I looked not a person that you would take any notice of - and it worked."

A spokeswoman for WA police said they were digesting the contents of the 465-page report.  "A review will be conducted into the findings of the special inquiry to determine what further action is required."


Saturday, September 15, 2012

"Watchdog" refuses to investigate the bureaucracy

AUSTRALIA's corporate watchdog badly bungled its handling of one of the nation's biggest bribery scandals by failing to interview a single relevant witness and misspelling the lead police investigator's name in emails, leaving crucial correspondence stalled or unread.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission announced in March that it would not act on a referral by the Australian Federal Police to investigate the Reserve Bank banknote scandal, despite the federal police and government lawyers finding compelling grounds to do so.

The Herald can reveal that so strong is the evidence of possible corporate malfeasance that before referring the matter to ASIC, the police considered taking the rare step of getting a special delegation from the Gillard government to investigate corporate law offences.

ASIC's failure to conduct the most basic investigation has not only infuriated senior law enforcement sources in Canberra but left a big part of the corporate corruption scandal untouched. It has also sparked questions about whether the political sensitivities that could flow from a probe that ensnared serving and former Reserve officials has influenced ASIC's conduct.

The Liberal MP Tony Smith said he intended to grill the ASIC chief, Greg Medcraft, about the issue and the independent senator Nick Xenophon questioned "the extent ASIC has been blind-sided by the fact that these allegations involve subsidiaries of the Reserve Bank.

"It seems extraordinary that given the seriousness of these allegations and what is at stake, that not one relevant witness has been interviewed by ASIC.

"This is serious enough to warrant a special taskforce from ASIC. If they need more funding from the government, they should get it," Senator Xenophon said.

A senior legal source aware of evidence implicating some of the directors of the allegedly corrupt Reserve subsidiaries Securency and Note Printing Australia said it was very strong and included the reckless approval of payments to a suspected corrupt arms dealer and to front companies in known tax havens.

Yesterday the Herald revealed that several directors of both companies, including top Reserve officials, were told of explicit bribery and corporate corruption concerns in 2007 but chose not to call police.

It was revealed in court yesterday that a corruption whistleblower, Brian Hood, was made redundant in 2008 by the top Reserve official Bob Rankin after Mr Hood repeatedly raised corporate corruption concerns.

Australian corporate laws prohibit reckless conduct by directors and the victimisation of whistleblowers.

ASIC's task of starting an inquiry was made vastly easier after the police gave it boxes of evidence related to possible corporate charges identified during the police probe of criminal bribery offences.

But it is understood ASIC investigators did not question a single director, or interview a single relevant witness, about the material police provided.

Documents obtained by the Herald under freedom-of-information laws reveal ASIC only twice corresponded in writing with police about the scandal before deciding not to launch a formal probe.

In July last year, a senior ASIC investigator emailed the head of the police taskforce investigating Securency and NPA to seek advice. "The deputy chair of ASIC has requested that I inquire of the AFP as to the scope of its investigations and the charges that have been laid, before ASIC makes any decision as to whether we need to investigate anything arising from this matter," the ASIC investigator wrote.

"ASIC would not want to duplicate any work that the AFP has already undertaken so it would be appreciated if you could assist ASIC in determining whether it should commence any investigation."

But the investigator misspelt the email address of the police officer, calling him Roland Pike instead of Rohan Pike. This meant Mr Pike did not receive the initial email.

In the email, ASIC also mistakenly wrote that the police were "given delegation by the minister to prosecute Corporations Act offences as part of their investigation", despite the fact that this was not ultimately given to the federal police by the government. ASIC declined to release the only other correspondence between it and the police, emails sent in March just before it announced it would not investigate directors of the Reserve firms. Police have charged Securency, NPA and eight former executives with criminal bribery offences but no action has been taken against the directors.

Mr Medcraft has yet to explain publicly the basis for his decision not to investigate, despite promising more openness about watchdog decisions.

An ASIC spokesman said a thorough assessment of the material provided by the police had been done before it was decided not to investigate. He declined to answer specific questions.


Three separate watchdogs for the NSW police -- and all were in bed together

So there was no restraint on police misbehaviour

Peter Burgess loved being a NSW cop. Absolutely loved it, ever since he joined in 1987. He worked in the country pretty much his whole career: Coffs Harbour, Kempsey, not bad places to be a detective and raise a family.

It all changed in 1997. About August-September that year, his life was thrown into turmoil, thanks to the actions of police within the Special Crime and Internal Affairs unit, known as SCIA, the so-called "white knights". Their job was to root out corruption.

But hundreds of pages of confidential NSW Police documents seen by the Herald say some officers within SCIA committed criminal offences to charge or discredit colleagues, sometimes on the basis of "personal vendettas".

The documents reveal some SCIA police falsified information to bug phones and install listening devices.

And in the case of Burgess, the documents allege they induced a criminal to not only twice breach his bail but also to perjure himself in front of a judge. All in the name of getting a brief on Burgess, who to this day has not been charged with any offence.

In the process, his health suffered, clumps of his hair fell out and a once social and outgoing man became withdrawn and far less trusting of others. At one stage he feared for his life and that of his family. Among many honest officers targeted by SCIA, his story is disturbingly familiar.

It starts in early 1994, when three violent criminals broke into the home of the night manager of the Coffs Harbour ex-services club.

At gunpoint, they tied up his naked wife and then kidnapped the man and took him to the club so he could open it up. They couldn't get in and the attempted robbery failed.

In April 1994, Burgess and other police arrested and charged Terry Blewett, Craig Cant and a third man, we will call him "Jones". Blewett had already served time in jail for robbing a cash-in-transit van during which a guard was shot and seriously wounded. He was a suspect in another similar robbery in which a guard was murdered.

The documents seen by the Herald show that sometime later Jones became an informer for the SCIA. He alleged wrong-doing, not so much by Burgess, but by other officers from the Major Crime Squad North who had become involved in the case.

And that's when Burgess's nightmare began.

As the case against the alleged kidnappers rolled on, Burgess applied for, and was granted, a year's leave without pay. He had three children from a previous marriage, but he and his second wife, Cherie, wanted to have kids. They planned to enter the IVF program, never easy at the best of times. The day before his leave was due to begin in 1997, he was told it had been "disapproved".

There was no explanation.

Burgess told the Herald this week: "They said, 'You are to report back tomorrow'. I was angry, I was just furious."

Cherie still remembers the day. "I was just totally shocked. I said to Pete, 'you are joking, this is just bullshit'."

They believe his leave was cancelled because he was under investigation and SCIA wanted him at work so they had easy access. By now, Jones, the informer, was out on bail. In disgust, Burgess quit the job he loved. "I told them they could shove it up their arse," he said this week.

By 1999, he was working in a pawn shop in Kempsey. On May 5 that year, to his dismay, in walked Jones.

Ostensibly, the meeting was a coincidence. Jones said he was trying to pawn a video recorder. But he also sought to engage Burgess in conversation about the case. The cop in him was immediately suspicious, and told him to leave.

One of Jones's bail conditions was to not approach witnesses. Yet he turned up again on May 24, and Burgess suspected he was wearing a listening device and was sent by SCIA officers in direct breach of his bail conditions.

Burgess reported the incidents. Jones appeared on the breach of bail matter in Coffs Harbour District Court on September 23, 1999.

He gave evidence he had been "surprised and shocked" to see Burgess at the pawnbrokers.

Burgess complained to the Commissioner of Police and the Police Integrity Commission about SCIA's behaviour. He also believed Jones had perjured himself in court.

In a letter, dated September 27, 1999, his solicitor wrote it had become apparent "[Jones] had entered our client's premises at the behest of internal affairs officers". He asked the commissioner to investigate whether Jones had committed perjury by saying he was "surprised and shocked" to see Burgess, whether SCIA officers had instructed him to lie in court and, if so, whether they had perverted the course of justice.

Unbeknown to Burgess or his solicitor, at that very time SCIA, along with the NSW Crime Commission, was running a covert inquiry into police corruption called Operation Mascot. The Police Integrity Commission joined the inquiry in July 1999.

As Burgess says now, given SCIA and the Crime Commission were working hand in glove with the PIC, the police watchdog, it is little wonder his complaints fell on deaf ears. He says one of his complaints was found, years later, in the bottom drawer of a senior SCIA officer who had left the unit. When an inquiry was finally attempted in 2003, investigators were blocked by the secrecy provisions of the Crime Commission.

Cherie recalled this week that after Jones came into the pawn shop the family lived in fear because they knew what had happened to the night manager and his wife. "It petrified me that we could be next. [SCIA] put Peter and our family in danger.

"I find this incredibly unfair that they can break the law and they are not accountable. What they did to Pete has haunted him for all these years."

Blewett, Cant and the informer were eventually acquitted. Burgess blames the SCIA. Blewett has since disappeared and is believed murdered. Cant was jailed in Darwin on major drug charges. The fate of Jones is unknown.

The SCIA officers alleged to have been involved have been promoted or left the force. Peter and Cherie Burgess now run a business on the north coast. Their attempts at IVF were unsuccessful.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Trigger-happy NSW cops again -- covered up, of course

No charges against shooter depite Coroner's recommendation

Jeremy Holcombe cannot sleep. He cannot work, he cannot relax and he is obsessed with bad news. He was hospitalised with panic attacks on the third anniversary of his son Elijah's death in June this year.

The physical manifestation of his grief continues, unabated.

Then came the letter from prosecutors late last month, indicating they would not be pursing the police officer who shot the mentally ill Elijah Holcombe for murder or manslaughter, despite a coroner's view that such charges could be proffered.

For Mr Holcombe, this was just another heart-wrenching chapter in the tragic saga - as another is only just beginning. Mr Holcombe and his late wife's estate have launched civil action against the State of NSW, claiming the Holcombes have suffered greatly from the "unlawful" and "negligent" conduct of Senior Constable Andrew Rich and his employer, the NSW Police Force.

In particular, they claim he did not heed warnings about Elijah's mental illness and was not justified in shooting the man who health workers simply wanted to be returned to hospital for treatment.

Documents filed with the NSW District Court outline the repeated alerts issued over the police system warning officers searching for the 24-year-old that he "suffers from mental health issues and is extremely frightened of police - use caution when dealing with - concerns he will run".

Just hours earlier, Elijah had presented at Armidale police station to return his father's car, which he had used to flee his parents' home in Narrabri, and requested hospital treatment. He was taken to Armidale Hospital where nurses expressed concerns for his mental state, but as a voluntary patient he could leave whenever he pleased. He did - but worried health workers asked police to help find him and bring him back, so alerts were issued asking patrol officers to keep an eye out.

About 4pm that day he was spotted, and an officer began a pursuit, chasing Elijah through a mall, a cafe and then into a laneway. Senior Constable Rich called out to Elijah: "Stop or I will shoot."

Armed with a bread knife grabbed in the cafe, but still at least eight metres from the officer, Elijah turned to face Senior Constable Rich and was fatally shot with a single bullet.

"Elijah died because of the unlawful and negligent conduct of [the officer]," the Holcombes argue in their negligence suit. "There is no reasonable possibility that [the officer's] response was a reasonable response to the circumstances as he perceived them … [He] was not acting in self-defence … at the time of the shooting, [the officer] knew or ought to have known that Elijah had not committed or was not committing an offence which warranted the use of lethal force."

Police said they could not comment on the case because it is before court.

Jeremy Holcombe told The Sun-Herald he wished no ill on anyone involved in Elijah's death but hoped at least a civil court could adjudicate on what occurred.

His solicitor, David Sweeney, added: "People often get relief when there's recognition of their injustices."

The State Coroner, Mary Jerram, shut down the inquest into Elijah's death in October 2010, referring the case to the DPP for consideration of charges. The case will now return to her at a date in the future, while the civil case returns to court later this month.

The Holcombes' criminal solicitor, Philip Stewart, told the The Sun-Herald he had urged the coroner to resume the inquest, taking evidence from the remaining listed witnesses.

"One would hope that the police have the fortitude to allow themselves to be questioned," he said.


NSW cops: No-one was watching the crooked watchdog

And it's still being protect by a coverup

Documents obtained by The Sun-Herald, allege some officers in Special Crime and Internal Affairs - or SCIA - falsified information to obtain listening devices, telephone intercepts and search warrants and, in one case, induced a criminal to commit perjury in front of a magistrate.

They also show that Parliament, the public and rank-and-file police have been repeatedly misled about the reasons why one listening device warrant contained the names of 112 serving and former police and two civilians, including a journalist.

In that case, many officers, including the present deputy commissioner Nick Kaldas, believed they were victims of a personal "vendetta" by officers within SCIA.
Malcolm Brammer and detective sgt. John Dolan.

Former detective inspector Malcolm Brammer (left) and former detective sergeant John Dolan in 1991. Photo: Supplied

And M5 - the corrupt officer turned undercover operator who secretly taped his colleagues - agreed. He told investigators: "I was assisting, nurturing corruption." He also said: "I smelt a rat … I was settling old scores which related to my supervising Superintendent."

The bombshell allegations are contained in long-suppressed reports of internal strike forces code-named Sibutu, Tumen and Emblems, which were established to investigate complaints made about SCIA between 1997 and 2002.

The Sun-Herald has now seen copies of all three reports, which the police hierarchy and successive governments have refused to release.

Strike Force Emblems was set up in 2003 to investigate a controversial listening-device warrant approved in September, 2000. It contained the names of 112 serving and former police and two civilians - and it was one of dozens sought by SCIA officers and the NSW Crime Commission, which were running a covert inquiry into police corruption, Operation Mascot.

But its net was so wide that it placed under surveillance dozens of honest officers, including the current deputy commissioner Nick Kaldas, Detective Inspector Wayne Hayes, Assistant Commissioner Ken Mackay, and Detective Superintendent Paul Jones.

The key player in Operation Mascot was a corrupt NSW cop, code-named M5, who wore a listening device for two and a half years and recorded hundreds of conversations with his colleagues. His home was also bugged, as was his car, his briefcase and his mobile phone.

The Emblems report says eight SCIA officers, including its then boss, Assistant Commissioner Mal Brammer, his deputy Superintendent John Dolan and then acting Inspector Cath Burn were among those investigated. Ms Burn is now Mr Kaldas's fellow deputy commissioner, and both are touted as potential commissioners. Emblems does not make any findings against any particular officer.

It says its inquiries were hampered by the refusal of the NSW Crime Commission to hand over crucial documents, including affidavits, and it therefore could not reach definitive conclusions.

Nevertheless, it found:

* There were clear indications that "criminal conduct may have occurred surrounding the affidavit".

* On the available evidence there was no justification for 54 serving and former police and the journalist Steve Barrett being placed on the listening-device warrant.

Previous Strike Forces Sibutu, Tumen and Operation Banks had identified "systemic corruption and mismanagement" within SCIA in relation to listening devices, telephone intercepts and search warrants. Serious adverse findings of corruption had been found against senior officers attached to SCIA.

Strike Force Emblems suspected similar "alleged corruption". It reveals M5 became disillusioned with his SCIA handlers and believed they were sending him to record conversations with honest police in a bid to settle old scores. It is believed one of those was Mr Kaldas.

It is well known in police circles that at one stage, Mr Kaldas and John Dolan had a serious disagreement. Emblems says that, about a month after that confrontation, M5 approached Mr Kaldas, who then became suspicious and reported the matter to the then deputy commissioner, Ken Moroney.

M5, who worked undercover between February 1999 and mid-2001, said: "I was sent by my supervising Superintendent to a particular person five or six times, I smelt a rat … I was settling old scores." He said he was uncertain of the true motives of those supervising him.

Mr Brammer, who left the force in mid-2002, yesterday denied any wrongdoing and strenuously denied any knowledge of a vendetta. [See separate story.]

Mr Brammer has been the subject of adverse findings in previous internal police reports, including for "untruthfulness" a "manifest conflict of interest" as well as "bias" and "a lack of fairness". One inquiry found he allegedly perverted the course of justice by improperly arranging an internal investigation against an officer.

Mr Dolan, who has also left the force, could not be reached for comment.

Mr Brammer has previously said Operation Mascot was run with the full co-operation and supervision of the Crime Commission and the Police Integrity Commission. He said the current Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, was involved at the time and he knew of no improper conduct by Ms Burn or anyone else.

At least one former SCIA officer has raised the "vendetta" allegation. In a formal record of interview with one of Emblems' predecessors, Strike Force Tumen, the detective Paul Albury says he thought the targeting of Mr Kaldas was based more on a "personal vendetta" rather than any evidence.

The officer says there was deep concern by some within the unit that serving and former officers were being targeted on the basis of "third and fourth-person hearsay".

The previous Labor government and the O'Farrell government have refused to release the Emblems report, despite the current police minister, Mike Gallacher, pushing for its release while in opposition.

The Inspector of the Police Integrity Commission, David Levine, has been asked by the State Government to investigate whether the Strike Force Emblems report can be released. He is currently working his way though documents provided to him by NSW Police and the Crime Commission. It is not known when his inquiry will be completed.

Some former detectives named on the warrant believe he has not been given the resources needed to get to the bottom of the long-running saga. They believe an independent judicial inquiry is required - free of police intervention.

They say the Police Integrity Commission is disqualified from investigating the matter because it was intimately involved with SCIA and the Crime Commission in Operation Mascot from an early stage.

Strike Force Emblems interviewed 35 people who complained about their names being on the warrant. Emblems found there was no justification for 22 of those, including Mr Kaldas, being on the warrant. Overall, it found that of the 114 people named, there was probably no justification for 54 of them being on it.

"The use of 114 names on the subject listening device is an abuse of process and not in the 'spirit' of the legislation. It is not conceivable each person would be part of a conversation over a 21-day period."

(Warrants are approved for 21 days. Police need to reapply if they want to continue bugging).

Many other police named on the warrant are respected and senior detectives. The vast majority have never been told why they appeared on the warrant, let alone questioned or charged.

Emblems investigators said their inquiries were hampered because the then head of the NSW Crime Commission, Phil Bradley, after initially agreeing to co-operate, refused to hand over crucial documents. These included affidavits which were presented to the Supreme Court to support the application for the listening device.

Strike force investigators, which included five detective inspectors, clearly found themselves under intense pressure and took the extraordinary step of recording their fears that they may be subject to "payback".

"Although there is no evidence of a 'payback' or 'reprisal', the nature of the Strike Force Emblems investigation, with the alleged corruption identified, indicates there is a potential for retribution against Strike Force members," the Emblems report said.

Investigators also reveal they were directed to be less than truthful with the 35 people who formally complained about their names being on the warrant.

It says they were "instructed" to tell complainants "we are working towards obtaining the affidavit".

"At no time have the complainants been informed that the affidavit has been refused or that the Crime Commission is being obstructive."

The Sun-Herald asked Mr Scipione, Ms Burn and Mr Kaldas for comment.

Through a spokesman, Mr Kaldas said he was "unable to comment".

Ms Burn did not wish to comment, except to say she had never been the commander of SCIA.

The Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, said: "All matters relating to Strike Force Emblems and any associated materials have been referred to the Inspector of the Police Integrity Commission. NSW Police has provided all materials asked for by the inspector."


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Victorian cops over-reach

You would think that they would check the law before they acted -- but perhaps not with Vic cops

POLICE have been forced to hand back chemicals capable of being turned into an ecstasy-type drug to a Camberwell schoolgirl, after they discovered that it is not illegal for the girl to possess them.

Boroondara detectives confiscated the stash of chemicals and 1000 empty gel capsules last week after the mother of the 15-year-old found them in the girl's bedroom and called the police. The haul included 10 sealed bags of various chemicals - including hordenine, caffeine, phenylethylamine (or PEA) and phenibut - valued at $1000.

On internet forums, people who combined hordenine and PEA described the effects as "super euphoria" and "a really evil high", while others reported suffering a headache while coming down from the drugs and speculated that the combination could cause a stroke.

"When mixed properly, these make up a drug that has the same effect as ecstasy," Detective Senior Sergeant Daryl Cullen said. "The caffeine is used to prolong the effect."

Senior Sergeant Cullen said the schoolgirl had been given the cache by a 16-year-old boy, also from Camberwell, who had bought them on the internet. Police interviewed the youth, who was warned of the potential harmful effects of the chemicals and buying from unknown sources on the internet.

However, legal advice indicated that neither teenager had committed an offence and that the chemicals would have to be returned.

Senior Sergeant Cullen said the chemicals were ordered from well-known international websites Hard Rhino and Muscle-Empire and mailed from San Jose in California. "They obviously got through Australian Customs no problems," Senior Sergeant Cullen said.

"These websites advertise these chemicals under the guise of muscle stimulants and dietary supplements, which are all perfectly legal. It's their potential for other uses that alarms us."

Senior Sergeant Cullen said young people, parents and schools had to be aware of the potential dangers of ordering from these websites.

"I've personally never come across these type of drugs, and in such quantity before, but nothing surprises me in the policing business."


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Junior Qld. cop caught taking drugs in undercover sting

Peter Michael

UNDERCOVER police busted a young constable using ecstasy during a covert operation in a popular far-North party scene

In the latest scandal to embroil incoming Police Commissioner Ian Stewart, Ethical Standards Command ordered local detectives to run an internalal affairs investigation into the junior officer.

The top-level probe came after drug squad officers identified the constable buying and taking the party drug ecstasy with friends on social outings in Cairns.

The Brisbane-based drug squad operatives had been in the tropical north as part of a series of top-secret investigations into alleged drug trafficking syndicates operating from Melbourne to the Gold Coast to Cairns.

It is understood the police constable, the son of a highly respected 35-year veteran of the Queensland Police Service, was picked up by surveillance interacting with priority targets in the underworld sting. The Courier-Mail understands the policeman apologised for the shame, hurt and embarrassment he caused to the QPS, in particular his father, and has since resigned

The above story appeared in the "Courier Mail" on Wednesday, September 5, 2012, p.7

Calls for Qld. police on drug raids to wear body-mounted video cameras to limit corruption

Failure to dob crooked colleagues will also be penalized

THERE are calls to force police on drug raids to wear body-mounted video cameras after footage surfaced of a rogue detective allegedly pocketing stolen cash.

Incoming Police Commissioner Ian Stewart vowed to sack the officer - who is currently on leave while being investigated by the Crime and Misconduct Commission - if he is found guilty.

Mr Stewart went further in warning other police would face sanctions for turning a blind eye to corruption.

The Courier-Mail can reveal today that the drug squad detective sergeant at the centre of the latest scandal had been oblivious to any secret anti-graft probe until he walked in on senior officers talking about a "rogue cop" and "a rat in the ranks" after an unauthorised leak from internal affairs and the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

The officer reportedly spontaneously vomited in front of his colleagues in a physical reaction of shock.

Shortly after, the officer contacted lawyers and took leave from the QPS. He has spent the past few weeks in Belmont Private Hospital undergoing mental health assessment.

Queensland Police Union and Civil Liberties yesterday joined calls to provide officers in top-level raids with body-worn video cameras.

In July last year, officers in Townsville and Toowoomba wore the clip-on devices in a six-month trial.

Police Union President Ian Leavers said he had been calling for them to be worn as a rule rather than by exception for two years. "I know if these were used (by police) both the public and the police themselves would have complete faith in their actions," he said.

He said the union was assisting the officer, who had not been formally interviewed or charged, in the preliminary investigation.

Terry O'Gorman, President of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties, backed the calls for police video.

"Every time police kick in doors in top-level raids, they should be wearing these body cameras," said Mr O'Gorman, a criminal lawyer. "Police stealing money on drug raids was a significant problem pre-Fitzgerald and one that required police to change their procedures.

Mr Stewart sounded a warning to any police who failed to blow the whistle on corruption.

"Stealing is a criminal offence. We cannot have thieves in the Queensland Police Service," he said. "The future will show that officers not only should come forward and raise those allegations, if they don't, certainly they face very severe penalties themselves.

"Ethics is not something you can turn on and turn off. It's like being pregnant - you can't be half pregnant. You either have your ethics and credibility or you don't."

He promised a speedy investigation. "There are some minor hold-ups and that deals with the specific case and circumstances that we find ourselves in but as soon as possible this matter will be wrapped up and dealt with," he said.

Mr Stewart will take over from outgoing Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson who retires at the end of October.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Top NSW cop wrote dishonest report to protect colleagues

Even though the victim was shot in the back by a panicky dickess Tracy, they still tried to lie their way out of it

ONE of the state's top homicide investigators engaged in "whitewashing" and "fabrication" in preparing a report into the police shooting of the mentally ill Sydney man Adam Salter, the Police Integrity Commission has heard.

And when Detective Inspector Russell Oxford was later informed by the NSW Crown Solicitor's Office that he would come under scrutiny over the report and should get a lawyer, he allegedly accused the office of having "an agenda" against NSW Police.

The revelations emerged during the sixth day of the commission's public hearings into the 2009 death of Mr Salter and the police's subsequent investigation.

In his final report, Inspector Oxford cleared all officers involved in the shooting of wrongdoing, finding they acted reasonably and appropriately given that Mr Salter was threatening one of them with a knife.

But late last year the NSW Deputy Coroner found that the 36-year-old was shot in the back while he was harming himself with a knife following a failed police operation.

The coroner described aspects of Inspector Oxford's investigation as "a disgrace" and found that he misrepresented the truth.

Inspector Oxford's final report into the shooting was based, in part, on the claim that the evidence of the four officers who witnessed the shooting was consistent with that of the three ambulance officers who were also there - that is, that Mr Salter grappled with a young officer in the moments before he was shot.

But during the course of the inquiry, the ambulance officers have given evidence that Mr Salter was some distance from the police officer and posed a threat only to himself.

Yesterday, Geoffrey Watson, SC, the counsel assisting the inquiry, accused Inspector Oxford of deliberately omitting the contradictory evidence in order to "whitewash" the incident.

"[By this point in the report] you're now just engaging in deliberate fabrication - that is just manifestly false, isn't it?" Mr Watson said. "You were not offering a genuine report at all, you were simply offering a whitewash."

Inspector Oxford denied this, arguing there were "a number of consistencies" between the versions of events given by the police and the ambulance officers.

Mr Watson also put it to Inspector Oxford that, upon receiving a letter from the Crown Solicitor's Office advising him to seek independent legal representation before last year's inquest into the shooting, he rang the office and berated one of its staff.

Inspector Oxford allegedly told the staff member: "I welcome the chance to give evidence … I have a lot to say about the Crown Solicitor's Office and their broader agenda."

He also allegedly said: "We have had nothing but criticisms from your office."

But Inspector Oxford denied he had tried to intimidate the staff member or her office. He said he had simply been venting frustration about not being given enough notice that he was going to come under criticism at the coronial inquiry.

Inspector Oxford was also questioned about why he did not obtain forensic evidence of the trajectory of the fatal bullet.

He replied: "I was satisfied with the examinations our people did at the crime scene … there was no doubt that the shooting was in close proximity to Adam Salter."


Dodgy Qld. cop caught out pocketing the loot in drug raid

DRUG criminals have enlisted the state's corruption watchdog to unmask a police officer they claim stole cash during a raid.

The Courier-Mail understands CCTV footage used by the alleged criminals shows the officer pocketing wads of $50 notes during a raid on their premises.

The revelation comes as incoming police commissioner Ian Stewart, whose appointment was announced yesterday, promised to get tough on rogue cops. He could walk into the job facing a fresh scandal more at home in the pre-Fitzgerald era.

The Crime and Misconduct Commission was contacted by a lawyer acting for the accused drug traffickers, who alleged they had footage of the police raid from a surveillance system hidden inside the alleged drug house.

The Courier-Mail understands footage obtained by the CMC allegedly shows the Brisbane-based detective putting wads of folded $50 notes in his pocket after executing a search warrant in raids in the state's southeast.

The highly regarded drug squad officer is allegedly captured on video stealing about $1500 in cash from the accused drug syndicate.

It is alleged the detective can then be seen in the footage calling another colleague into the room before they formally count out the remaining money as proceeds of crime.

The veteran of numerous top-level police operations is on leave from the Queensland Police Service. He is yet to be formally interviewed or charged.

As soon as the CMC was notified of the hidden video surveillance footage showing the alleged police corruption, it ordered covert surveillance on the officer including phone taps.

The secret CMC probe has spent several weeks investigating if the alleged corrupt behaviour was widespread or systemic.

Once senior police became aware of the officer's alleged action and the reported existence of the video footage, captured on one of two surveillance systems hidden in the raided building, they also reported the matter to the CMC. It is understood the officer found one of the systems but not the other before he allegedly pocketed the cash.

The CMC has executed search warrants on the detective's home and his police office in the Brisbane drug squad headquarters.

High-ranking police officers, aware of the CMC investigation, yesterday told The Courier-Mail the officer accused of stealing the drug money had a reputation as a "good operator" and "top-class policeman".

They said they were "shocked" and "deeply surprised" by the allegation of a "rogue" in the ranks. But they dismissed the possibility of any systemic problems within the drug squad.

Lawyers working on the case say there is "no more invasive act" than a police officer "kicking a door in, with a search warrant, and then stealing from the criminals". "You can't be a cop and be a crook at the same time," they said.

The Queensland Police Union is aware of the CMC investigation and is known to be supporting the officer and his family.

If found guilty, the officer faces a possible jail term of up to two years.

In a statement, the QPS said the "Ethical Standards Command is investigating an allegation of improper conduct involving property.

"The investigation will be overviewed by the CMC. "As it is an ongoing investigation, no further information can be provided at this time."