John Passant has serious questions he would like answered by Victoria Police, amid the resignation of its Assistant Commissioner Brett Guerin.
The article related to a protest in Melbourne which had resulted in conflict between the police and demonstrators.
The article contained serious inaccuracies. What was interesting, however, were the comments I received on the article, some of which appear to have been removed — possibly after I complained to Victoria Police.
One respondent threatened to kill me.
‘They should put a bullet in you, for the good of everyone else.’
Another said, with just a hint of Alan Jones:
‘I hope you drown next time you go and do one of your little aquarobics classes friend.’
Another commenter who called themselves Dirty Unwashedc*nts (DUC) among other things, said:
‘Never let the truth get in the way of a good story hey cockhead?’
There were other abusive comments from them. It turns out the IP address that DUC was using was the Victoria Police Centre at 637 Flinders Street, Melbourne.
DUC also used a fake email address with the words "german sausage" (not visible to readers) in it. Another post also used the same fake email address but from a different IP (presumably home) address. It would be reasonable, based on the use of the same fake and not public email, to assume that the two are the same person.
In late 2013 or early 2014, I complained to the Victoria Police Conduct Unit, which, as part of the Professional Standards Command, was from 2015 (after my complaint was lodged and "finalised") run by Assistant Commissioner Brett Guerin.
On Monday (26 February), Guerin resigned after The Age exposed him using a pseudonym to indulge in homophobic and racist rants. Some of the racist abuse he hurled, using the name "Vernon Demerest", included among other things: "cheating dagos", "third world dullards", "Indian and Pakistani peasant[s]" and "jigaboo[s]".
In late 2014, a year after my complaint and after a few reminders from me (and nothing from them) followed by an FOI request, which they initially rejected, Victoria Police confirmed that it was a Victoria Police address but could not tell whose computer it was.
The consequence, they told this computer illiterate, was they couldn’t find who was responsible. Even if they could find the computer, there was no guarantee the person who normally used it was that person, or persons, responsible for the post. There were lots of computers in Victoria Police headquarters, which any police officer could have used.
As I pointed out to the Conduct Unit at the time, DUC used a fake email address in both his or her Victoria Police site post and also from another site. Through Whois, someone as technologically incompetent as me could discover the second address led to a separate, private address. Was this followed through? If not, why not?
The Police Conduct Unit was run by Assistant Commissioner Brett Guerin. He had at least one fake name.
Could he also have used DUC as another? Could he, or associates, have been involved in the decision to sidestep my complaint with a shrug of their shoulders and an "it’s all too hard" excuse? Could reactionary attitudes (including anti-left wing views) be pervasive in the Victoria Police Force and explain the rejection of my complaint?
According to SBS, Victoria Police are reviewing more than 100 decisions Guerin or his staff made. That will include, I hope, over-policing of African communities.
Another option I had was to refer the matter to the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission. However, it is not clear that police misconduct is within their ambit. Corruption is — but is misconduct corruption?
A Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry is currently examining whether police investigating police in cases of allegations of misconduct is a conflict of interest. The Guerin case suggests the answer to that is a resounding yes. Let me use the example of the Community Advocacy Alliance who wrote to the Chief Commissioner of Police Graham Ashton, in May 2017, about Guerin.
As ABC reports:
Facebook group Community Advocacy Alliance, whose members include former senior police officers and victims of crime, wrote to Commissioner Ashton in May last year to allege Mr Guerin was using the pseudonym to make offensive remarks.
The letter [from CAA to IBAC] used screenshots to link the Vernon Demerest account with Mr Guerin's personal account.
Correspondence seen by the ABC showed that matter was referred to IBAC which found the matter "did not warrant investigation".
Victoria Police said it held the same view.
From memory, I could have appealed the decision of the Conduct Unit to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal or the Magistrates Court, but Victoria Police basically advised that costs could be sought against me.
Here are some more questions for Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton — and for Police Minister Lisa Neville.
Could it be that the culture in Victoria Police is racist, sexist and homophobic, and that Victoria Police protect their own? After all, others with similar stories to mine have had their complaints rejected, as the Community Advocacy Alliance has made clear.
Not only that, but Guerin has a history of racism — and there is a history of Victoria Police protecting him. According to Cameron Houston and Chris Vedelago in The Age, ‘In 2008, Mr Guerin called former senior sergeant Mario Benedetti a "f*cken wog".’
They go on to say that
‘Victoria Police spent almost $300,000 of taxpayer funds fighting the case [brought by Benedetti] before settling.’
Why? What was Victoria Police trying to hide?
Some more questions. Is "Dirty Unwashedc*nts", in fact, just another pseudonym of Brett Guerin? If not, which Victoria Police officer is DUC? A little bit of investigative work could, I believe, figure that out based on the information I supplied to Victoria Police back in 2013 or 2014.
Was DUC or anyone associated with DUC involved in deciding my complaint? Will my case be reviewed?
I note, without irony, that back in September 2017, Nino Bucci from The Age reported that ‘Mr Guerin [was] overhauling the police complaints process’. How did that go? How is it going?
Why did Victoria Police protect and promote someone like Guerin? How can we trust the police to investigate police? Is the culture of racism, sexism, homophobia and reaction in Victoria Police systemic?
Is it not the time for an independent body to investigate complaints against police, rather than police investigating themselves?
I look forward to your prompt responses Chief Commissioner Ashton, and Police Minister Neville.
John Passant is referring this matter to the Chief Commissioner and the Minister.
Read more by John Passant on his website En Passant or follow him on Twitter @JohnPassant. Signed copies of John's first book of poetry, Songs for the Band Unformed (Ginninderra Press 2016), are available for purchase from the IA store HERE.
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