“These are disturbing allegations about police culture and practice,” said Hugh de Kretser, executive director of the Human Rights Law Center.
“The original alleged misconduct is bad. The fact that at least one police integrity investigator may have actively undermined the misconduct investigation is even worse. This highlights yet again why our system of police accountability is failing Victorians. Police simply should not be investigating police. ”
In a formal statement released to The Age, Victoria Police said Mr McCann’s alleged criminality spanned from June 2018 to August 2021.
Sources close to him but not authorized to speak publicly said most of the charges focused on a period of a few months in which Mr McCann spearheaded an aggressive investigation throughout Melbourne’s Macedon Ranges that targeted criminal suspects tied to alleged drug activity and stolen property.
According to court documents, Mr McCann is accused of directing less senior investigators to insert allegedly false information in affidavits that were presented to senior police or a magistrate to empower officers to raid suspects’ homes.
Even though the investigation raised serious questions about culture and oversight within pockets of the force – sensitive topics for Victoria Police after various public inquiries including the Lawyer X royal commission – Victoria Police had previously released no public details about the investigation. Police issued a detailed statement confirming the charges and suspensions, as well as moves to notify the 15 Victorians named in the allegedly tainted search warrant affidavits, after queries from The Age.
‘The Andrews government must establish a system where we have an independent expert watchdog … to investigate all allegations of serious police misconduct.’
Human Rights Law Center chief Hugh de Kretser
“Victoria Police takes this issue extremely seriously and has taken swift action against the alleged offenders,” the statement said. “Proactive steps have been taken to identify the cases linked to these affidavits. Fifteen affected people have been identified and Victoria Police has commenced disclosure to those affected persons.
“When the issue was identified, two people were still before the courts and one was subject to an outstanding warrant. In these instances, the charges and warrant were immediately withdrawn. The remaining 12 affected people have already heard their cases before the court and finalized. “
The force said these 12 people had or would soon be contacted.
A high-profile career
Mr McCann’s friends say he is gruff, opinionated and a relentless investigator, but his career has attracted controversy in the past. As a suburban detective, he helped identify Carl Williams as an emerging drug kingpin and, in the 2000s, he joined the elite homicide squad as part of a team led by now retired senior-sergeant and high-profile murder investigator Charlie Bezzina.
In 2011 Age article, Mr Bezzina was quoted saying of Mr McCann: “I can not speak highly enough of him in terms of his honesty or work ethic as a copper.”
The article also described how Mr McCann had won a bravery award for entering a siege zone in Sunshine in 2010 to locate civilians threatened by a gunman. Mr McCann and his partner were repeatedly fired at and the gunman was later charged with attempting to murder them.
However, the same article also dealt with allegations – which were denied and which never led to formal action – that Mr McCann was tied to a network of old-school police who prioritized friendship over ethics.
A year later, in 2012, Victoria Police tried to sack Mr McCann over a scandal involving the production of a racist stubby holder. His career survived, he climbed in rank to sergeant and was subsequently elected to the board of the police union, which is a center of networking in policing circles and wields considerable political influence over the state government.
While stationed at Gisborne police station as a sergeant in 2018 – a middle-management position that involves overseeing more junior police – Mr McCann led a group of investigators that he sought to mentor.
A retired senior detective, Bill Patten, a friend of Mr McCann’s, said the younger man’s “bull at a gate” style had led to a falling-out with another group of investigators, but “I’ve never known Calum to cross any lines. ”.
“The Calum I know can be very aggressive, but it’s all about catching crooks. He’s one of the most operationally competent and dynamic police members I know, ”Mr Patten said.
In 2020, Professional Standards Command received a complaint about Mr McCann. Veteran anti-corruption detective Peter Fogarty, who is among the longest-serving anti-corruption officers on the force, took charge of the investigation.
Mr Fogarty’s team examined a number of affidavits used to obtain search warrants and took statements from junior police who had helped compile them. Data released by Victoria Police to The Age shows that, after several months of investigations, Mr Fogarty’s team “identified seven affidavits relating to 12 addresses alleged to contain some false information”.
Mr McCann had used the search warrant affidavits to raid suspected drug dealers and thieves between June 2018 and August 2020. One supporter of Mr McCann, who spoke to The Age on condition of anonymity, insisted the false information was the result of an inadvertent error caused by using pro-forma affidavits.
But the case against Mr McCann (which is yet to be tested in court) involves the allegation that he deliberately and repeatedly falsified affidavits to increase his team’s arrest rate. Victoria Police said the alleged misconduct was “an isolated issue involving a very small number of officers”.
Mr McCann’s charging follows two major public inquiries by Victoria’s police watchdog, the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission, both of which sought to highlight alleged police behavior that prioritized arresting suspects over following proper process. The Lawyer X scandal has already led to several major criminal figures being released from jail.
Mr McCann’s arrest targets were much smaller fry in the criminal world (and only one suspect was jailed), yet the fact his alleged misconduct took place during and after the Lawyer X royal commission raises fresh questions about police culture and practices.
In its formal statement, Victoria Police also details how Mr McCann and an unnamed internal affairs detective known to Mr McCann are facing criminal charges for allegedly seeking to compromise Mr Fogarty’s investigation. A second professional standards investigator is on stress leave and may also face suspension, sources said.
Mr McCann declined to comment when contacted.
Police culture and accountability expert Dr Colleen Lewis said the allegations suggested the force may not have learned the lessons of the Lawyer X royal commission.
“The commission should have been enough to make even old-school police recognize that that type of behavior is not acceptable,” she said.
Dr Lewis also called for independent and public scrutiny of the scandal.
The Human Rights Law Center’s Mr de Kretser said: “The Andrews government must establish a system where we have an independent expert watchdog with the power and resources to investigate all allegations of serious police misconduct.”
Victoria Police said it had advised the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission about the allegations. IBAC recently called on the Andrews government to give it more resources so it could investigate more cases of misconduct.
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