Wed. Dec 1st, 2021

The former head of the Victoria Police Unit for Ethical Standards used three pseudonyms to write racist, sexist and homophobic comments while trolling people online, a study has found.

In a report presented to the Victorian Parliament on Tuesday, the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission found former Assistant Commissioner Brett Guerin using the names Vernon Demerest, Clive Howlett-Jones and Grange Callendar to make hundreds of speeches while on and off. duty from 2016 to 2018.

At least 70 of the posts “could be considered offensive”, the report found.

Guerin resigned in February 2018 while under investigation by Ibac.

However, Ibac found that Guerin’s trolling did not affect his work, despite the fact that the senior officer used information he received as part of his job to inform some of his comments, and posted on cases where he had a declared conflict of interest or was expected to make a disciplinary action. Ibac found no evidence that his decision as assistant commissioner was compromised by any underlying beliefs or views, the report said.

As part of the investigation, Ibac reviewed 189 complaint files in which Guerin played an active role in the decision-making process, which was otherwise “at risk of bias”, revised emails and browser history of Guerin’s work and personal devices, reviewed Guerin’s staff file and complaint history, and convened Guerin for a private investigation, as well as conducted a criminal conversation with him.

Ibac found that although Guerin’s conduct was offensive and inappropriate, it did not live up to the standard required to file criminal charges.

The report outlined several examples of Guerin’s trolling, including posting inflammatory comments on a Facebook page set up by family members of a person under investigation by Victoria police.

When someone wrote in a separate Facebook group called “Victoria Police Corruption” that an officer involved in an incident would not lose their job, Guerin replied under a pseudonym: “I would not bet on that cocko”.

Guerin later signed a disciplinary charge against the officer, who was eventually fired, the report found.

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“Ibac’s review of complaint files did not identify evidence that Assistant Commissioner Guerin’s decisions (including those taken in his previous position as superintendent) were influenced by bias.

“But his behavior risked damaging the integrity and confidence of the Victoria Police investigation.”

‘My poorly judged way of venting’

Guerin explained his behavior to Ibac as “my poorly judged way of venting, trying to relieve stress”. He said he accepted Ibac’s findings and acknowledged “the inappropriateness of the material I posted and its potential to undermine confidence in not only me personally but Victoria Police in general”.

“Mine is a beneficial lesson to others that in the end there is no anonymity on the Internet and nothing posted should be considered temporary.

“Ventilating on social media is an inappropriate and ultimately destructive way to deal with the stress one faces.”

Ibac made several recommendations to Victoria Police, including considering introducing psychometric tests as part of its process before appointing senior executives, and ensuring that its recruitment and promotion processes reflect “modern best practices” and revise its social media policy. .

The anti-corruption watchdog noted that although Guerin’s behavior was revealed in 2018 and it had recommended an update to social media policy in August 2019, the force did not complete it until June. The policy has since been criticized as too intrusive by the police union and is being revised again, the union reported earlier this month to members.

Victoria police should also ensure that information on civil lawsuits is included in members’ staff files, Ibac said, after finding out that Guerin had previously been sued when he was superintendent for allegedly making racist comments to a colleague.

Ibac found that the police reached a confidential financial settlement with Guerin’s colleague, and although Guerin did not deny that he had used the alleged language, he claimed that it was not a racist remark in connection with the conversation.

Ibac found that the conduct had been considered in two previously unsuccessful applications by Guerin to be promoted to assistant commissioner, but the knowledge of this was “derived from a panelist’s prior awareness of the matter on both occasions, rather than through formal recruitment and impartiality processes.” .

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