This report presents the findings of key investigations by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) into serious police misconduct involving the use of illicit drugs, and broader consideration of Victoria Police’s systems and practices to detect and prevent illicit drug use by its officers. IBAC’s Operations Apsley, Hotham and Yarrowitch raise serious concerns about illicit drug use by sworn police officers and also highlight potential systemic weaknesses in Victoria Police’s approach to this issue.
Any illicit drug use by police is a serious problem with significant ramifications not only for the individual officers involved, but also for their colleagues, and the police force as a whole. Importantly, police use of illicit drugs adversely impacts the safety of the community and undermines the community’s level of trust and respect for police and the law.
In summary, illicit drug use by police is clearly unacceptable because:
Illicit drug use, possession and trafficking are criminal offences which contravene the oath or affirmation sworn by all police officers, as well as contravening the professional and ethical standards and values they are required to uphold.
Illicit drug activity exposes individual officers to compromise and corruption. An officer who procures and uses illicit drugs is by definition engaging in criminal conduct. This not only seriously compromises the officer but also leaves them vulnerable to blackmail or coercion and at real risk of engaging in other serious forms of misconduct or corruption. As previously reported by IBAC, organised criminals seek to exploit risk taking behaviour such as illicit drug use to compromise and corrupt public officials, especially police.
Victoria Police’s authority to uphold the law, and maintain the community’s respect for the law are eroded by police using illicit drugs. An individual officer using illicit drugs lessens their authority to enforce the law, and diminishes the collective authority of Victoria Police in the community.
Illicit drug use by police officers also presents a serious health and safety issue for individual officers, their work colleagues and the broader community. It is imperative that an officer’s judgement and performance are not impaired by illicit drugs, particularly when police are exercising a range of lethal and non-lethal force options, making decisions about arrest and the exercise of other powers, driving in unpredictable situations, or dealing with difficult and challenging situations.
Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission, State of Victoria 2016