4 Corners sent the following around to its email list ahead of last night’s program:

Please see the following information about tonight’s Four Corners.
States other than Victoria will receive “Speed Trap”. For legal reasons
Victorian viewers will receive “Ethiopia: A Journey with Michael Buerk”
(details at bottom). There will be no on-line forum tonight.

“THE SPEED TRAP” – 4 CORNERS MONDAY 8 MARCH

Next on Four Corners: how police laid a trap to catch drug dealers but
instead found themselves entangled in a web of corruption allegations.

– – – – – – – – – – –

A decade ago detectives from the Victoria Police drug squad came up
with a new weapon in their war on the dealers. It was called,
prosaically, “Controlled Chemical Delivery”. To help them track down
clandestine laboratories, police obtained the precursor chemicals used
to make methylamphetamine – speed – and sold them to criminals, via
informers.

The aggressive new strategy yielded results. Speed dealers who fell for
the sting were busted and jailed. But the Victorian Ombudsman describes
the policy as “an unmitigated and foreseeable disaster”.
Huge amounts of chemicals were “lost”, and converted to speed. And some
officers became corrupt, selling drugs and chemicals for their own
private benefit.

For more than two years the Victoria Police’s “Task Force Ceja” has
been gathering evidence and laying charges. But its operations are
veiled in secrecy. No one knows who it’s investigating, or when it
might conclude.

So far two corrupt Drug Squad detectives have been jailed; 12 more
Victoria Police members – eight of them former or serving members of
the Drug Squad – have been charged with drug-related corruption. More
charges may well be imminent.

Public confidence in the police and in Victoria’s justice system has
been seriously shaken. While CEJA’s investigations continue, most of
the men accused of running Melbourne’s speed market remain free on
bail, their trials postponed; because too many star police witnesses
are themselves in prison, or facing charges, or are under investigation.

“This is unprecedented,” says one QC. “We’ve never had such a large
group of serious drug prosecutions tied in with such a large group of
police corruption charges against the investigating police.”

Two years ago the new Chief Commissioner, Christine Nixon, halted
Controlled Chemical Delivery and disbanded the old Drug Squad. It was
replaced by a new unit, with new commanders and new rules.

She claims the Major Drug Investigation Division has been highly
productive. But a recent case of serious corruption raises the
question: have the old problems been solved?

The Chief Commissioner and the Minister deny that there’s systemic
corruption in the Victoria Police. They point out that the Royal
Commissions that have sought to purge police in other states have cost
millions, but produced few convictions. Task Force CEJA, they say, is
the best way to deal with corruption allegations.

Jonathan Holmes reports on “The Speed Trap” – Four Corners, 8.30pm Monday 8 March (repeated 1pm Tuesday).

NB: For legal reasons this program cannot be shown in Victoria
(“Ethiopia: A Journey with Michael Buerk” will be aired in its place).
However a modified version of “The Speed Trap” will be screened in
Victoria on Monday 15 March.

CRIKEY: We’d love some feedback on what the program was like to
[email protected] Check out the repeat today. The Victorians love to
claim they have the lowest crime rates in the country and the cleanest
police force but this is starting to look dubious. The 4 Corners hit
follows on from Adam Shand’s Sunday/Bulletin extravaganza on the
gangland killings in Victoria which remain a mystery to our struggling
police force. You also have Keith Moor reporting in the Herald Sun this
week that 1000 criminal and disciplinary charges have been laid against
500 Victoria police officers over the past 5 years. And we thought the
dodgy coppers in the Wild West were bad.

4 Corners nails corrupt Victorian coppers

Second sealed – 9 March 2004

For all us Victorians who missed out on 4 Corners last night and found
diddly squat in the local papers, a Sydney-based subscriber provides
this interesting summary:

Dear Crikey,

Re: Four Corners “Speed Trap” program

You asked for comments on last night’s Four Corners about Victoria’s
enlightened programme of supplying precursor chemicals to known drug
manufacturers and middlemen in order to track the supply to illegal
speed laboratories and distributors.

Needless to say, it made for interesting and disturbing viewing,
reminiscent of the atmosphere of pre-Wood Royal Commission NSW and
pre-Fitzgerald Inquiry Queensland police forces. Accepting for the
moment the basic premise that supplying drugs to criminals is a valid
law enforcement method, the most disturbing aspect of the programme was
that senior police officers stated that they were completely unaware of
the activities of the Drug Squad in:

  • purchasing up to a million Sudafed tablets and supplying them to speed manufacturers;
  • purchasing 5.5 kilograms of pure pseudoephedrine (a restricted
    chemical) from a major reputable chemical supply company and selling it
    at a huge profit to speed manufacturers (including, allegedly, the
    Bandidos and the Moran family); and
  • allowing up to a dozen batches of speed to be manufactured from
    Police supplied precursor chemicals, and still not busting the
    manufacturers and distributors,

not to mention indications that the drug dealing of some Police
officers extended to their own existing or proposed distribution
networks of marijuana, speed and cocaine, and the necessary
interference with the operations of the Police required to protect
those networks.

If true, these claims of lack of knowledge by senior Police should
themselves be enough to convince the Victorian Government that a Royal
Commission (or equivalent) is necessary, as the Police would then be
unable to regulate its own officers. If not true, independent and
forceful investigation is required immediately.

The claims of Senior Police that these are just “a few bad apples”
appear about as convincing as the protestations of similar authorities
in NSW and Queensland, and probably have about the same chance of being
correct.

Yours, Malcolm

CRIKEY: The Australian gave the story a good run at the top of page 3 today: Detectives in drug lab accusation
But we couldn’t find anything in The Age or the Herald Sun. How pathetic is that?

Peter Fray

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