Victoria Police command has imploded. This was always a collapse that was waiting to happen. Simon Overland’s palace coup is mission accomplished. Commissioner Nixon demonstrates the problems that arise from a political appointment of a weak leader. Consequently, senior police command has spent its time fighting to be her successor rather than fighting crime.
Nixon has just stood back and let it happen – or worse, she didn’t know what was going on. The contenders were Noel Ashby and Simon Overland. Last week’s OPI hearings, resulting in the resignation of Ashby, can also be viewed as total victory to the Overland camp. It is also likely that the power of the Police Union will be destroyed.
Overland is a man of vaulting ambition. His media appearances over the past couple of years have been cocky, even arrogant. He is too clever to get caught on tape in the way that Ashby has, as the OPI hearings have revealed. Overland spent a short time working in former Keating government Justice Minister Duncan Kerr’s office in the mid 1990s. He obviously learnt the art of politics well.
Victorian police officers have little respect for Nixon and little loyalty. She has been a weak Commissioner. Last month she refused to introduce random drug testing for police officers, despite legislation giving her the power to do. Instead she said that officers will only be tested when they shoot someone (a bit late then, one might have thought). And she has been unable and unwilling to stand up to the Victorian Government. The citizens deserve better than this. It is time for Nixon to resign or be sacked. Not only does she have ultimate responsibility for the current crisis, but her weak leadership has indirectly caused it.
Victoria needs a new Commissioner, preferably from the outside. That Commissioner should be able to choose a new leadership group, which may not include Overland.
Most of all, Victoria needs a Crime Commission to investigate corruption in the police, from top to bottom. The Commission must be staffed by police who are not Victorian officers. There are a number of unsolved murders which have been connected to police. These need to be properly investigated without any further delay – and Victoria Police seem to be incapable of doing this. A Crime Commission would also be free to investigate corruption in government, a problem which is not seriously looked at. Government corruption may be the reason why the Bracks-Brumby governments have resolutely opposed a Commission.