Damaging and horrible … Police Commissioner Ken Lay. Photo: Penny StephensJohn Silvester: Rats in ranks
Police fear a major information leak described as damaging and horrible will compromise serious criminal investigations, including some into bike gangs.
Chief Commissioner Ken Lay announced a taskforce on Monday afternoon to probe the leak, which was detected when police documents were found last month during searches of three properties in Melbourne.
A junior member of the force has been suspended without pay and is expected to be the source of the leak, which included documents dating back to 2010. The officer is from the northern region.
One of the raided properties that had leaked documents inside was linked to a high-profile member of a motorbike gang.
The are 31 officers on the task force, described as senior members and “the best”.
“Today we’re talking about one of the gravest breaches of police security certainly in my time in Victoria police,” Mr Lay said.
“This is a gross breach of trust. It is absolutely vital we nail this, and nail this very quickly.
“This is our greatest priority going forward.”
Police have contacted people named in the documents, whose safety may have been compromised and Acting Deputy Commissioner Steve Fontana said there were some crimes committed against people on the list, but it was unclear if this was retribution.
Mr Fontana said it was unclear how many people were named in the documents, and how many of those were potentially at risk.
He said police had “no idea” how many investigations may have been jeopardised.
Mr Lay said the force were confident the leak was predominantly the work of the suspended member, but there may be other officers on the periphery.
“The amount of damage that has done been done by these people is quite extraordinary.”
Taskforce Keel has been given two months, but Mr Fontana said he expected criminal charges to be laid soon.
The Echo taskforce, established to probe bikie gangs, professional standards command and crime department officers executed the warrants.
Mr Lay did not say how many documents were found, but said it was a significant number. It was unclear whether there were electronic copies of the documents, or how many people had been given the information.
Mr Fontana said many of those named in the documents as assisting police had criminal histories and detectives had made a list prioritising those most at risk.
Some would be offered protection, he said.
Mr Lay apologised to the media and the public for being unable to reveal more about the breach, but said details would be provided as soon as possible.
He said that it was extremely rare to speak openly about an ongoing investigation, but he wished to ensure that the public did not lose confidence in the force’s capacity to keep their information private.
“It again highlights how difficult it can be to protect the community from people who are hell-bent on corruption,” he said.
Taskforce Keel, which will probe the breach, will include two superintendents and be headed by Mr Fontana.
More to come…
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