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NEWS > 20 October 2006

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 Article sourced from

Melbourne Herald Sun - Austral
20 October 2006
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Catching their own

THE old-style ship painters and dockers prided themselves that they'd "catch and kill their own".

Members of the Ceja taskforce wouldn't choose that analogy, but the philosophy of the police corruption fighters is not that different.
Cdr Dannye Moloney, who led the troops given the job of catching and convicting their own, said yesterday it was important that the casualties were now made public.

"Because all the information, and the evidence given before the courts, has been under suppression order the rest of the policing community and the community in general is not in the know," Cdr Moloney said. "They don't know the results."

For the record, Ceja's results so far are 10 serving officers charged: five were convicted by juries, three pleaded guilty, one is awaiting trial, and one was acquitted by a jury.

Another two former police and eight civilians have been charged with less serious offences. Eight of these 10 have been convicted, one was acquitted, and another is awaiting trial next year.

Ceja members are anxious not to be seen to be dancing on the graves of corrupt former colleagues, and won't have their photographs taken for fear of creating that impression.

But Cdr Moloney said it was important for police and the public to know that the force discovered its own problems and did something about them.

"We have hunted those who were suspect and eliminated and exculpated many who weren't corrupt, which is very important to maintain their credibility," he said.

Cdr Moloney said Ceja's success had come at a great cost, to the force and its reputation and in the impact upon its members.

B UT he said the cost to the public should be balanced by its confidence that it had a clean force "prepared to chase down our people who step outside (the law)".

The financial cost of a royal commission was also higher than that of a focused investigative approach. "The whole community is much better off."

Det Sen-Sgt John Rodger's crew of eight focused on a heroin trafficking conspiracy involving Ian Ferguson, Stephen Cox and Glenn Sadler.

Det Sen-Sgt Rodger said thousands of police probably still did not know the extent of the corruption that was fought.

"They don't realise, because they were fed stories by various people who suggested it was just complaints from a disgruntled informer getting his own back and would go nowhere," he said.

Det Sen-Sgt Rodger said the physical isolation of the taskforce, the hours they worked and the type of work meant they "didn't quite have that general policing camaraderie" during the past four years.

B UT neither he nor Cdr Moloney would discuss the intimidation and threats directed at some Ceja members. One found bullets in his letterbox; another's wife was followed.

Det Sen-Sgt Rodger said the scope of the corruption they encountered was "unbelievable".

"We would never have conceived that members of the drug squad would actually be turning 180 degrees and going the other way," he said.

"The volumes of money and the amount of drugs was the sort of thing you'd only read about in books."

Taking into account the number of police who worked at the drug squad over the long period that was examined, Cdr Moloney insisted that the taskforce found not organised, endemic corruption but only "pockets" of it.

He said the investigation had the benefit of leading to better procedures for handling informers.

There was now a central registry of all informers, two levels of training for their handlers, and a management team controlling high-level informers. He said the new measures limited the chances of police corrupting informers.

The Ceja taskforce was born of Operation Hemi, an Ethical Standards Department investigation that led to the arrest and conviction of drug squad detectives Stepen Paton and Malcolm Rosenes. Intelligence gathered during Hemi prompted a six-month internal probe of the disbanded drug squad early in 2002.

Ceja was formed to pursue its results.

Their task was to examine the drug squad's performance between 1994 and 2001, when it was wound up and replaced by the major drugs investigation division.

Cdr Moloney said Ceja's first problem was that all the suspected crimes were historical. "There were no crime scenes, no DNA, fingerprints or photographs," he said.

"The components of criminality, whether it be drug abuse, drug distribution or any corrupt payments -- the evidence supporting all that had disappeared."

A NOTHER problem was the taskforce's targets were streetwise detectives with sound knowledge of investigative techniques and tactics.

The taskforce's numbers grew from about 20 to 50 inside 12 months and included legal and financial experts as well as police investigators.

Forensic accountants tracked down dozens of bank accounts, subpoenaed bank records spanning several years, and examined all spending and related transactions.

Ceja investigations produced huge briefs of evidence. The case against Ferguson, Cox and Sadler consisted of 300 volumes and about 80,000 pages produced in response to defence subpoenas.

Cdr Moloney said Ceja's investigative work was complete; only the work required to assist in remaining prosecutions for lesser offences remained.

THE name Ceja had no special significance. It was simply next on a list of randomly generated names for operations.
 

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