Victoria Police faked more than 250,000 breath-test results over five years.
Victoria Police faked more than 250,000 breath-test results over five years.

Real number of fake police breath tests

LAST week it emerged that Victorian police officers were faking their way through random breath-tests by blowing into devices themselves.

The rort, uncovered after a whistleblower spoke out, forced Victoria Police to admit more than 258,000 random breath tests had been falsified over the past five years.

The shocking findings were detailed in an internal report that revealed officers had faked more than 1.5 per cent of its 17.7 million preliminary roadside breath tests to meet quotas or to avoid breath testing motorists.

In the wake of the damning statistics, Victoria's Transport Accident Commission (TAC) suspended the $4 million in annual funding it gives to the state's police force.

But the Herald Sun is reporting the more accurate number of false results might be closer to one million.

The newspaper reports the figure of 258,000 was derived from short test intervals but the number did not take into account the number of single-use straws attached to breathalysers. Victoria Police could not say how many single-use straws had been distributed.

In a press conference last week, Assistant Commissioner for Professional Standards Command, Russell Barrett, said the state's police force will now commence the "largest workplace guidance exercise" ever undertaken.

"We will be going to every workplace and speaking to every member and explaining why this practice is wrong, what their roles are and why we need the trust and support of the community," he said.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Barrett said Victoria Police would make sure the misconduct was "never going to happen again".

"We issued a directive to all members of Victoria Police that this practice will stop and stop immediately. We've explained to them that from today on, this practice will not be tolerated," he said.

Mr Barrett said it was "not an isolated incident, it was widespread behaviour".

Victoria Police made the announcement last Wednesday, declaring they had "let the community down".

In a statement, they concluded the practice involves "an officer either (placing) a finger over the straw entry hole or (blowing) into the straw themselves".

"It is believed the self-testing activity has been largely undertaken by general duties and highway patrol members, with some rural areas over-represented," the statement said.

"It is not a practice found to be performed at supervised drug and alcohol bus testing sites."

The activity was first reported to Victoria Police late last year.

Once aware of the claims, an intelligence assessment was undertaken that involved "a very complex and protracted" analysis of five years of data, 1500 PBT devices and more than 17.7 million tests.

"Disappointingly (the tests) found 258,463 PBTs or 1.5 per cent of all tests had been falsified," Mr Barrett said.

"This conduct will not be tolerated, any member found engaging in this practice from today has been put on notice they will be investigated.

"I had not heard of our members engaging in such a practice, we let ourselves down, we've let the community down. It stops now."

Victoria Police is in the process of appointing an external investigator to determine "the root causes of the behaviour", "underlying cultural and behavioural issues" and "supervision and management practices that resulted in the behaviour continuing to go unchecked".

"The question we all asked was 'why?' There could be a number of reasons but the main rationale I believe is to hide or highlight productivity," Mr Barrett said.

"Whatever reason our workforce may come up with, it isn't acceptable.

"As disappointing as this is, it should be noted that, at this stage in the investigation, there is no evidence to suggest fraud or any criminality has occurred. Similarly, there is nothing to suggest that any of this activity has impacted on any prosecutions."

Police are hoping to lean on technical advice about how to future-proof testing devices.

"In moving forward we are looking into a number of options for improving and increasing our internal controls and accountability in regard to our testing regime," Mr Barrett said.

"We are considering the feasibility of regular audits, the ability for the PBT to include the detail of the operator and quality assurance measures."

Victoria Police is in discussions with the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) about the matter.