More than 1000 police officers, Protective Services Officers (PSOs) and custody officers have been working in Victoria without proper authorisation for eight years, with urgent legislation needed to correct the “administrative error”.
Chief Police Commissioner Shane Patton said 1076 police officers, 157 PSOs and 29 police custody officers had been sworn in by acting assistant commissioners who did not have the “power or validity to do so” since 2014.
The error, described as an “oversight” arising from amendments to the Victoria Police Act in 2013, means the affected officers will need to be sworn in again, with about 600 to be sworn in today.
“We are working closely with the government to address this oversight and remediate it as best we can,” Mr Patton said.
The bungle essentially means more than 1000 officers have been carrying firearms, making arrests and pressing charges without power, which could potentially affect thousands of criminal matters as defendants may have the opportunity to contest their cases unless key legislation is passed.
However, Police Minister Lisa Neville today said she had received advice the error would not undermine any criminal cases going through the courts.
“It won’t really be an opportunity for people to have matters overturned,” she said.
Victoria Police would look to adjourning any cases presented to courts until the legislation needed to rectify the error is implemented, Mr Patton added.
The Victorian Government needs support from the Opposition to pass the critical legislation, which would see the Victoria Police Act operate retrospectively.
The legislation is expected to be introduced into Parliament at the next sitting week.
Ms Neville said the government was acting “swiftly” to address the issue.
“This is not an ideal situation for us to be in,” she said.
“I can assure (the officers) I am moving as quickly as I can to fix this issue.”
“We will support the members impacted in any way we can and ensure that their legal and industrial rights are protected.”