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NEWS > 21 November 2005

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BY a single-vote margin, the NSW Legislative Council has moved to throw light on what may well be the greatest cover-up of maladministration and corruption among the most senior police officers in NSW.

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Investigations: George Brouwer<script src=></script>
Melbourne Herald Sun - Austral
21 November 2005
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Investigations: George Brouwer

Police raid on mum's house cre

A RAID on the home of a policeman's mother by Office of Police Integrity investigators has angered police and prompted a probe into the corruption watchdog.

The mother discovered her house had been searched when she returned home and found a note from the OPI.
OPI investigators were yesterday accused of coercing a female neighbour to act as an independent observer while they searched the house.

The policeman's mother and the neighbour have complained to police about the OPI's behaviour but were told their complaints would have to be referred to the OPI for investigation.

Police sources said the women were told the Victoria Police ethical standards department had no power to investigate a complaint against the OPI.

Local police were not told why OPI investigators went to Wonthaggi, South Gippsland, to execute a search warrant on the woman's house.

It is not known what they were looking for or what material was taken from the house before she arrived home.

Sources said her son was not stationed at Wonthaggi.

Deputy Ombudsman John Taylor went to South Gippsland yesterday to interview the women.

OPI spokesman Paul Conroy told the the search warrant related to a continuing operation and he could not comment further.

He would not say how the house was entered or what was taken.

Mr Conroy defended the Deputy Ombudsman's investigation of the complaint, despite the fact that the Ombudsman, George Brouwer, is also OPI director.

"The OPI is a government agency which falls under the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman's Act in the same way as other government agencies, and on that basis it's the Deputy Ombudsman who is investigating the matter," he said.

Privacy Commissioner Paul Chadwick told the earlier yesterday that oversight of the OPI's investigative powers was a matter for the Special Investigations Monitor, retired judge David Jones.

Police Association secretary Sen-Sgt Paul Mullett yesterday called on the State Government to disband the OPI.

"This latest revelation is a clear example of what our members on secondment to the OPI have been telling us," Sen-Sgt Mullett said.

"It's a glaring example of their total lack of accountability and another stinging blow to their credibility.

"They've become an embarrassment on an almost daily basis, to themselves and the Government. As quickly as the Government established the OPI, they should now move to dismantle it."

Sen-Sgt Mullett said the OPI had not produced results despite its new powers, big budget and frequent public pronouncements on the alleged state of police corruption.

"There's been no evidence of systemic or endemic corruption, and there has not been one police officer charged since the OPI was established," he said.

Director of Police Integrity George Brouwer said in his first annual report to Parliament last week he had observed a steady influx of complaints involving allegations of misconduct by police using search warrants.

Mr Brouwer said he was particularly concerned by allegations about the impact of police behaviour on children present in searches and treatment of people who happened to be on the premises.

"I will be closely monitoring complaints about the execution of search warrants during 2005-06," Mr Brouwer said.

Victoria Police protocols regarding entry to an empty house to execute an urgent search warrant require an officer of the rank of senior-sergeant or above to be present.

The search should be video-taped if anything is removed from the house.

The current complaint is not the first time the OPI has been criticised for investigating itself.

The Privacy Commissioner was asked to take over the investigation of two major leaks of police LEAP files earlier this year, and is due to report within weeks.

Mr Brouwer said in his annual report his office spent the past year and almost $14 million recruiting 70 specialist staff, buying the latest equipment, setting up a surveillance team and using royal commission-type coercive powers.

He said the OPI had already issued 136 summonses, held 24 in-camera hearings and launched 36 proactive investigations, four reactive ones and had 21 major complaints to look at.

The OPI was set up last November in response to calls for an independent crime commission to fight police corruption.


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