Given that the Victorian Police lately has surpassed even the NSW, WA and Queensland Police forces for evidence of greed, graft and corrupt practices, what are we to make of the new TV series from the Nine Network called The Code: Crime and Justice?

According to Nine’s spin: “In an Australian first, The Code: Crime and Justice features unprecedented access to the officers of the Victoria Police and the rulings from inside the Magistrates’ Court. The Code: Crime and Justice reveals to ordinary Australians a different side of two of our bedrock institutions, the police and the courts, as dramatic stories of suburban sieges, drug raids and homicide investigations unfold every week.”

It starts at 7.30pm on Monday 5 February and is an attempt to match the observational doco Seven started last year called The Force, which is based around the WA Police Force.

The Seven program is highly sympathetic to the WA police, but Google “Western Australian Police Corruption” and you’ll get quite a few hits, including this one from ABC Online in 2004. No wonder when Seven came calling, the WA police decided this gift horse could not be ignored. Anyone remember the Perth Mint gold heist and the way the Mickleberg brothers were stitched up by the police? That one won’t feature in The Force.

So when the Nine Network went looking for a cooperative police force, Victorian Police Commissioner, Christine Nixon, herself a former senior officer in the NSW Police Force (the best money could buy, apart from Queensland Police under Joh Bjelke Petersen) jumped at the proposal. Nixon said: “I’m extremely proud of all the work Victoria Police and all police do – this partnership with Channel Nine provides a fantastic opportunity for the public to experience that work. We’ve opened up our organisation so that people can see the challenge facing police in providing safer communities.”

But again, if you Google “Victorian Police Corruption” you get a flood of hits, including this story, again from ABC Online from earlier this month. And there is of course the small matter of the long gangland wars in Melbourne which saw around 29 assassinations, police involvement and the escape overseas of a high profile criminal, Tony Mokbel.

In both cases the work of the WA Police and their Victorian counterparts should be lauded the tough jobs they do, but let’s have no illusions about the problems inherent in those and other forces with corrupt activities. It’s a pity both The Force and The Code won’t tackle the issue of police corruption head on: it would enhance the credibility of both programs.

Peter Fray

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