Friday 2 March 2018
The Police Accountability Project, welcomes the announcement of Operation Turon by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC).
We are pleased that the investigation will examine “the extent to which Mr Guerin’s conduct, in his role as the head of Professional Standards Command or otherwise, may have affected the investigation and outcomes of matters where racism and other potential breaches of anti-discrimination or human rights law may have been relevant.”
The Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre, which auspices the Police Accountability Project, called for a review of all complaint files former AC Guerin has had involvement in or oversight of in relation to allegations of racial discrimination.
As Superintendent, Brett Guerin was managing the Moonee Valley police service area during the time of the discriminatory Operation Molto and held oversight of complaints about police from the Flemington region in 2006 and possibly afterwards.
The exposure of his racist views about people from Somali, Indian, Pakistani and Argentinean decent casts a sickening shadow over his role at that time.
From around October 2005, the Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre received and documented a large number of reports of human rights abuses against African and Afghani Australians in the Flemington and surrounding regions.
Police behaviour reported to the legal centre included assaults requiring hospitalisation of victims, punitive beatings of handcuffed or otherwise restrained people, unlawful imprisonment, acts of torture and brutality within police stations, excessive use of force, unlawful searches, threats of sexual violence, unjustified use of capsicum spray, strip searches conducted after such threats are made, searches in unjustified and humiliating circumstances, racist and sexist comments, thefts of money and mobile phones, loss of vehicles, harassment, degrading and humiliating conduct and ill-treatment against racial and religious minorities. In some of the reports, children as young as 10 had been assaulted and mothers sprayed with capsicum spray.
People have reported being told by police to “get back to Africa,” “go home”, “we won’t stop till you are locked up”, you are a “terrorist”, a “monkey” and your Qu’ran is “shit”. The centre documented up to 100 such allegations over that period.
During 2006 the centre had submitted 17 formal complaints to the then Office of Police Integrity (OPI) on behalf of young people about their treatments by police in the region. Some of these complaints were the subject of later court action and the racial discrimination claim in the Federal Court which was settled in 2013.
We are particulary concerned about the report by Fairfax journalists, of Mr Guerin allegedly using the term “towel head”, when he addressed a group of police officers and staff in the mess hall of Flemington police station in 2006, which was the subject of an internal complaint the following year.
Victorians can have little faith in the integrity of any complaint that former AC Guerin was involved in during his tenure in the region.
These policing practices and the racist police culture that surrounded them may well have been reinforced under Guerin’s management at the time. We hope that Operation Turon will be able to shed some light on this possibility, the ways in which these race discrimination complaints and the internal complaint about Mr Guerin’s coments in 2006 were treated at the time.
Why this is relevant to the current IBAC Committee Inquiry
The Victorian Parliament is looking seriously at this critical aspect of police accountability right now.
The IBAC Committee’s Inquiry into the external oversight of police corruption and misconduct in Victoria is looking at alternative models for investigating allegations of police misconduct and discriminatory practices.
Ultimately, AC Guerin’s conduct, whilst head of the Professional Standards Command, demonstrates why police should not be investigating themselves.
His subsequent promotion to the head of Professional Standards Command (PSC) after at least two formal complaints were made to police command internally shows either how lax Victoria Police command are to the underlying attitudes of its officers, or suggests a culture of collusion and denial.
Were his racist attitudes known to the Chief Commissioner or others in Vicpol Command at the time of his promotion?
The whole process by which he continued to be allocated the Flemington complaint files and then his progression through to Assistant Commissioner and head of PSC warrants investigation within Operation Turon and consideration by the IBAC Committee.
That the head of Vicpol’s Professional Standards Command can hold such views really drives home the need for a police complaints body that is culturally, hierarchically and practically independent of police.
The onus is now upon Victorian Parliament to ensure that Victorian’s have effective police accountability systems and practices that all Victorian’s can trust.
An ineffective police complaint system has the effect of hiding or ignoring human rights abuses against members of the Victorian community. Our key message during the IBACC Inquiry has been that Victorian Parliament has a particular responsibility to ensure the effective and impartial investigation of complaints against police.
It is a wake up call for Parliament to get this system right.
Anyone with specific information or evidence relevant to the investigation into Mr Guerin should contact IBAC at ibac.vic.gov.au or 1300 735 135.
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Media and Resources
Corruption watchdog to probe disgraced integrity cop’s actions on racism complaints, Tammy Mills & Cameron Houston, The Age,
“Victoria’s corruption watchdog has widened its investigation into online trolling by disgraced assistant commissioner Brett Guerin to review the former police ethics boss’ actions on racism complaints….
Anti-corruption watchdog on disgraced former cop’s case, Samatha Hutchinson, The Australian, 2 March 2018
“An anti-corruption probe into online comments by former Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Brett Guerin has been expanded to assess the decisions and rulings he made in his role leading the force’s ethical standards body…
Over 100 claims to be reviewed after cop in charge of complaints quits, Manny Tsigas, SBS World News, 27 February, 2018
VIDEO: “Legal advocates will review more than 100 claims of racial profiling and other complaints against police that were dismissed while Victoria’s Assistant Commissioner Brett Guerin held senior positions in the force…
Disgraced senior ethics cop subject of previous racism complaints, Cameron Houston & Chris Vedelago, The Age,
“Complaints about racist remarks made by the disgraced head of Victoria Police’s own Professional Standards Command were lodged more than a decade ago, but Brett Guerin continued to be promoted through the ranks, The Age can reveal….