IBAC is Victoria's body responsible for preventing and exposing public sector corruption and police misconduct. The following is a summary of an IBAC investigation called Operation Turon.
In February 2018, IBAC commenced an investigation into allegations of police misconduct against the then Assistant Commissioner, Professional Standards Command, Brett Guerin.
The allegations against Mr Guerin were that he used a fake name, also called a pseudonym, to post comments on Facebook regarding matters involving Victoria Police. There were also allegations that he posted inappropriate and offensive material on other websites using the same pseudonym.
As the Assistant Commissioner of Victoria Police's Professional Standards Command, Mr Guerin was responsible for enhancing and promoting a culture of high ethical standards throughout Victoria Police, including managing the intake, assessment and investigation of complaints against Victoria Police and its employees.
IBAC's investigation found that Mr Guerin:
- committed police misconduct by making racist, homophobic and other offensive posts on social media while using a pseudonym, at times using Victoria Police information technology systems to do so
- engaged in online trolling behaviour while using a pseudonym, on and off duty, including in relation to matters relevant to Victoria Police and with information he got in the course of his duties
- used three pseudonyms to make hundreds of posts from 2016 to 2018, of which at least 70 could be considered offensive; and
- that he did not comply with Victoria Police values, or the standards expected of a high-ranking Victoria Police member as outlined in the Victoria Police Act 2013 and Victoria Police's policies.
IBAC's review of complaint files against Victoria Police and its employees did not identify any evidence that Mr Guerin's decision making was compromised by any underlying beliefs or views. This included those decisions made in his previous position as a superintendent. While his conduct was offensive and inappropriate, it did not meet the standard required to file criminal charges under the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995.
IBAC's investigation identified several systemic corruption and police misconduct risks, including social media use and employment practices.
There were several issues in the Victoria Police social media policy, including its application to anonymous commenting or using a pseudonym, and the need to make sure the policy is known and understood by all employees.
IBAC identified that social media was used to post racist, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments (under a pseudonym), over a number of years. IBAC also identified comments posted on social media, while using a pseudonym, in relation to several police matters, including incidents subject to internal investigations.
IBAC has previously identified the misuse of social media as an area of concern due to the increased use of social media and encrypted messaging apps by police, including for work purposes. IBAC continues to receive a significant number of allegations against police regarding their social media use. Between the first of July 2018 and the thirtieth of June 2021, IBAC received approx. 120 allegations related to Victoria Police employees' use of social media.
There were also several risks in Victoria Police's practices and processes for promotion of employees, including the information available to recruitment panels. In particular, information about civil litigation is not currently considered by panels when Victoria Police personnel apply for positions or promotions.
IBAC also identified that while those now applying to join Victoria Police must complete psychological testing (also known as psychometric testing), there is no such testing for police personnel as they progress through the ranks, even for those who are appointed to senior leadership roles.
The position of Assistant Commissioner PSC is responsible for promoting a culture of high ethical standards throughout Victoria Police, including managing complaints against Victoria Police and its employees.
Mr Guerin’s behaviour brought his decision making, and Victoria Police, into disrepute.
IBAC found Mr Guerin’s seniority was an aggravating feature contributing to the seriousness of his conduct, as he should have been aware he was putting Victoria Police's reputation and activities at risk by commenting on investigations and other matters of interest.
His conduct did not comply with Victoria Police values, or the standards expected of a high-ranking Victoria Police member as outlined in the Victoria Police Act 2013 (Vic) and Victoria Police's policies.
Mr Guerin resigned from Victoria Police while under investigation in February 2018, demonstrating how serious misconduct can significantly impact a person’s career, as well as the reputation of their organisation.
As a result of Operation Turon, in August 2019, IBAC recommended the following prevention actions to Victoria Police:
- that it consider psychometric testing as part of the process for promotion for senior leadership roles within Victoria Police
- that it review the training provided to PSC investigators to enable them to properly investigate internet-based offending; and
- that it review its social media policy in light of the issues highlighted in Operation Turon.
As a result of IBAC’s investigation, Victoria Police has updated its social media policy and training to make sure employees are aware of their obligations to use social media appropriately.
Additionally, as part of its improvements to its promotional framework, Victoria Police is reviewing the viability of introducing psychometric testing for the selection and promotion of senior leaders.
In October 2021, IBAC recommended that, within 12 months, Victoria Police reports to IBAC on the outcomes of a review of its leadership and promotional frameworks including its approach to mitigating the specific police misconduct and corruption risks identified in Operation Turon.
Operation Turon highlights the importance for all Victoria Police employees to ensure their conduct, both on and off duty, upholds Victoria Police's values and professional standards.
This is particularly important for senior leaders who are responsible for guiding employees in appropriate standards of conduct, in line with community expectations.
To download a copy of the report, visit: www.ibac.vic.gov.au
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