An internal investigation has revealed that over a five-year period more than 250,000 roadside breath tests were falsified by Victoria police officers.
Victoria Police were last year made aware of reports by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) of officers faking breath tests either by placing a finger over the straw or blowing into the breathalyser itself, in order to meet quotas.
Initial reviews of 1500 breath tests, then a further investigation of more than 1.7 million tests revealed that over 258,000 tests were faked.
“This conduct will not be tolerated, any member found engaging in this practice from today has been put on notice they will be investigated,” said Professional Standards Command Assistant Commissioner Russell Barrett in a statement.
“We let ourselves down, we’ve let the community down. It stops now.”
Mr Barrett says he will appoint an internal investigator to look into the issue further.
“The investigation will examine how this behaviour was allowed to occur and what we can do to enhance and improve our operational practice into the future.”
It’s understood that the fake tests were largely made by general duties and highway patrol officers, particularly in rural areas, not at official drug and alcohol sites.
“It is believed the self-testing activity has been largely undertaken by general duties and highway patrol members, with some rural areas over-represented,” said the statement.
“It is not a practice found to be performed at supervised drug and alcohol bus testing sites.”
Mr Barrett said he believed officers may have faked the test in order to boost quotas, and not to cover up any actual prosecutable offences.
“The question we all asked was why? There could be a number of reasons but the main rationale I believe is to hide or highlight productivity. Whatever reason our workforce may come up with, it isn’t acceptable,” he said.
“As disappointing as this is, it should be noted that, at this stage in the investigation, there is no evidence to suggest fraud or any criminality has occurred.
“Similarly, there is nothing to suggest that any of this activity has impacted on any prosecutions.”
Mr Barrett said more oversight of preliminary breath testing would be put in place and that officers will attend ‘guidance sessions’.
Do these findings shock you? Is it a victimless crime or could it be a concerning indicator of a darker underlying culture in the force?
Update 10.12am: TAC has suspended $4 million in road safety funding as a result of the investigation’s findings.