Audit reveals Victoria Police faked over 258,000 breath tests in 5 years

By @chelean on
Police officers get into the spirit of Christmas day by wearing Christmas themed hats as they carry out random roadside breath tests on a Sydney street December 25, 2008.
Police officers get into the spirit of Christmas day by wearing Christmas themed hats as they carry out random roadside breath tests on a Sydney street December 25, 2008. Reuters/Tim Wimborne

An internal audit has revealed that there had been more than 258,000 preliminary roadside breath tests (PBTs) that were falsified by Victorian police officers for five and a half years. More than 1.5 percent of the 17.7 million tests were found to have been forged.

The officers apparently doctored the tests by placing a finger over the straw entry hole or blowing into the straw themselves. The claims of the practice were first reported to the Victoria Police late last year.

Professional Standards Command Assistant Commissioner Russell Barrett said they had launched a “very complex and protracted intelligence assessment and investigation” of over five years of PBT activity. The Victoria Police will appoint an external investigator to provide advice on a number of concerns about the forgery, including the root cause of the activity and the underlying cultural and behavioural issues presented.

“The investigation, which analysed over five years of data, 1500 preliminary breath test devices and more than 17.7 million tests, disappointingly found 258,463 PBTs or 1.5 percent of all tests had been falsified,” Barrett said.

“This conduct will not be tolerated. Any member found engaging in this practice from today has been put on notice. They will be investigated. I had not heard of our members engaging in such a practice. We’ve let the community down. It stops now.”

AC Barrett said there was no clear answer why the behaviour was allowed to occur, but he believed that it was to hide or highlight productivity. He added that although the number was staggering, there was no evidence to suggest fraud or any criminality. There was also no evidence, at this point of investigation, that the falsified tests had impact on any prosecutions.

They believed that the falsified records were undertaken by general duties and highway patrol members, and not performed at supervised drug and alcohol bus testing sites.

“In moving forward, we are looking into a number of options for improving and increasing our internal controls and accountability in regard to our testing regime,” Barrett added. “We are considering the feasibility of regular audits, the ability for the PBT to include the detail of the operator and quality assurance measures.”

Victoria Police said it is in discussions with the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) about the issue.

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