Police officer in Victoria, Australia, have come under fire after an internal audit revealed more than 250,000 roadside breath tests were falsified across the state over a period of five years.
Last year, the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) notified the department of how breath testing data was anomalous, which subsequently prompted the force’s Professional Standards Command and statisticians to conduct a comprehensive investigation.
“The investigation, which analyzed over five years of data, 1,500 preliminary breath test devices and more than 17.7 million tests, disappointingly found 258,463 PBTs or 1.5% of all tests had been falsified,” said Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Russell Barrett.
According to a statement from the police department, some officers were placing a finger over the breath tester's straw entry hole or blowing into the straw themselves in an attempt to warp the results.
"This practice will stop and stop immediately. From today on, this practice will not be tolerated. We’ve let ourselves down, we've let the community down, and we’ve let our road safety partners down," Barrett added.
Amid such shocking revelations, TAC suspended $4 million of road safety funding to the Victoria Police that was not only used for roadside breath tests but was also spent on several road safety measures.
The commission said it was “disappointed” with the deceitful behavior of the police and will hold back the funding until it is satisfied that no more fake tests are being conducted.
Moreover, it was largely believed main culprits behind such widespread fake testing were general duties and highway patrol officers, particularly in rural areas.
After taking the initial necessary corrective measures, an external investigator was brought in by the police to enquire why the officers had been doing so.
“There could be a number of reasons but the main rationale I believe is to hide or highlight productivity. Whatever reason our workforce may come up with, it isn’t acceptable,” said the assistant commissioner.
Barrett further claimed there wasn’t any financial motivation for the officers to do what they did.
However, police officers and the Police Association suspected it could be demanding workloads and lengthy quotas that might have drove officers to engage in such a fraudulent act.
For instance, the union cited an example of a highway patrol unit in suburban Melbourne that is required to take 50 breath tests in a single shift. This, combined with additional duties, might have impelled officers to look for easier ways to get their jobs done.
However, the Victoria Police disputed with the assertion by claiming it didn’t set targets or quotas for officers.
Though Barret agreed in the light of such revelations the confidence in police's response to road safety had been shaken, he said there wasn’t any indication of any kind of fraud or any criminality that occurred due to the false tests.
In addition, the external investigation was also looking into the reasons of why such duplicitous practices went unnoticed for such a long period of time.
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