Contributed from Victoria
The fake road tests scandal may have come as a shock to many Victorians, who expected the state’s police to be acting with much greater integrity. It is not really so surprising, given the way the force is being run.
When performance is being measured on numbers caught, pressure is put on police officers to take short cuts. For years now, allegations have been made about mandatory quota targets. The state’s political leaders have never done anything about investigating this, and thereby signaled that it can continue.
It has now come to light, that 258,000 breath tests have been falsified for the last five and a half years.
Having Assistant Commissioner Russell Barrett admit it at a press conference and say that this is a breach of the community’s trust, goes nowhere near resolving the problem, and is no more than a clumsy attempt at damage control.
If police operations had been properly designed to detect such wrongdoing and do something about it, the problem would not have taken on such a scale and lasted so long. When it was exposed, it came from the outside. Someone at the Transport Accident Commission saw an anomaly in the data spoke out. If this had not happened, the fake bookings would have continued, and the innocent would still be paying the price.
Police performance should be measured on how it contributes to making where they operate a safer and better place to live, and the extent to which citizens are treated with respect and have their rights protected. It should never be measured by the numbers booked. This is the first change that is needed.
It will not happen, when the police are used as political pawns, a front line for the protection of privilege and to control the population. It may not be apparent to everyone that this is exactly what is going on. This does not make it any less true.
How often are the police are deployed to industrial disputes, much less to defend anyone who might be under physical threat, than for the reason of the protection of the property and prerogatives of the employer? This is how the existing law commands the police to act. An industrial dispute is never attended ensure that employees are treated fairly. In a similar vein, Police are often sent in to protect developers against communities protesting destruction caused by the developer’s activity. The police are not sent in to protect the community from the developer, but to ensure that the developer can continue. The reason for this one sided application is that property rights are seen as more important than any other right.
The police have also often been used as pawns in law and order campaigns by politicians, for self-serving political ends.
By being put in this position the police are isolated from the broader community, an us and them attitude is bred, disrespect for those they are supposed to serve is encouraged, and fertile ground for corrupt behaviour is provided.
The breath tests issue is merely a symptom of a much deeper and more serious problem. We should not forget that it was only a few years ago that the drug squad was disbanded, because most of those in it were under charges had been either charged for corruption and other crimes or about to be charged. This sort of thing occurs every now and then like clockwork. An investigation is held and a few individuals are punished. The big picture is always swept under the carpet and the bad behaviour continues.
Is it going to be the same this time around?