TAC suspends police funding after it was revealed that officers faked 258,000 breath tests

iT IS NOT CLEAR IF THE DELIBERATE FALSE READINGS WERE TO SAVE THE MOTORISTS OR GET EXTRA CONVICTIONS FOR THE STATE TO RAISE REVENUE.FORMER IS TRUE,THEN OK. IT WOULD SEEM THAT MORE TESTS WERE DONE BY OFFICERS ON THEMSELVES TO MEET QUOTAS FOR NUMBERS TESTED

The Transport Accident Commission has suspended its funding to Victoria Police following revelations officers falsified more than a quarter of a million roadside breath tests.

The Age revealed that more than 258,000 alcohol breath tests were faked over 5½ years, in what appears to be a rather deliberate ruse to dupe the system.

In the wake of the scandal, $4 million in annual funding the TAC gives to police for road safety measures has been put on hold, the head of Victoria Police’s Professional Standards Command, Assistant Commissioner Russell Barrett, confirmed.

“The TAC have suspended funding of our operations at this point, and we’re currently working through that with them to give them some reassurances,” Mr Barrett said.

Meanwhile, an external investigator has been appointed to probe the breath-testing scandal. Former Victoria Police chief commissioner Neil Comrie will look into how the behaviour was condoned & allowed to occur and what the force could do to improve operational practice in the future.

“I had not heard of our members engaging in such practiceSs. We let ourselves down, we’ve let the community down. It stops now,” Mr Barrett told The Age on Wednesday night.

An audit found that in many situations, officers had blown into breath test units themselves or actually tampered with the test devices.

“Victoria Police doesn’t set quotas at local levels broadly,” Mr Barrett said on Thursday. “If local members, local managers set a target for members, then that’s a matter for local areas.”

The police findings represent about 1.5 per cent of the 17.7 million breath tests conducted.

Police said about 1500 preliminary breath test devices were analysed during the internal investigation.

Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt said the faked tests were the result of “critically under-resourced”, over-worked officers trying to meet unrealistic targets.

“Call them whatever you want, targets, quotas, objectives. It’s no lie, every individual van across the state gets told that they have to target PBTs … it is wrong to say it doesn’t happen. It does happen. It happens every shift,” he told radio station 3AW.

“They’ve had a dramatic increase in the amount of tests required out on the street. Asking the same amount of people to do more, if follows this sort of behaviour is likely to occur.”

He said he did not believe the members who faked the tests should be stood down.

“I dont think it’s criminal. It’s not fraud… no one is paid for the amount of tests they do. None of our members have a direct financial or other benefits from any of this.

“It’s the wrong thing to do, but it’s a far cry from criminality.”

Victoria Police Minister Lisa Neville labelled the actions an “unacceptable breach of trust.”

“This conduct is extremely disappointing and unacceptable — it’s wrong, it’s a breach of trust, and it won’t be tolerated,” Ms Neville said.

While Ms Neville welcomed an independent investigation into the officers’ behaviour, she said there was no evidence to suggest their alleged conduct had affected drink-driving prosecutions.

But opposition police spokesman Edward O’Donohue said the breach raised plenty of questions.

“The integrity, not only of our police but our road safety regime, is paramount and it is up to Daniel Andrews to make sure this is thoroughly investigated,” Mr O’Donohue said.

The Transport Accident Commission raised concerns with Victoria Police after they found an anomaly in data late last year, Mr Barrett said.

It sparked the audit of the past 5½ years of data from the breathalyser devices.

Mr Barrett said the audit found a suspicious number of breath tests were being conducted in quick succession

Usually there should be a space of time between each test, to take into account an officer talking to a driver and breathalysing them, before moving on to the next car, he said.

But the faked tests occurred one after the other.

Mr Barrett said he believed officers were faking the tests to make themselves appear busier.

“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,” he said.

“Whatever reason our workforce may come up with, it isn’t acceptable.”

It is believed self-testing was largely undertaken by police on general duties or highway patrol members, with some rural areas overrepresented in the available data.

The practice was not common at supervised drug and alcohol bus testing sites, police stated.

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