'An Ethical Failure': Victoria Police Faked Breath Tests To Meet 'Unachievable' Targets

Officers from within Victoria Police falsified roadside breath tests to meet "unachievable" targets, an independent investigation has concluded. 

The report, by former police chief commissioner Neil Comrie branded the  practice within Victoria Police as both "widespread" and an "ethical failure".

Last year, an internal police investigation estimated more than 258,000 breath tests had been falsified over five years by officers to return negative readings.

The tests were carried out by officers who either blew into the devices themselves or placed their finger over the mouthpiece. 

Victoria Police on Tuesday handed down the findings of an independent investigation carried out by Comrie that found the practice was "widespread, impacting all regions and road policing operations and of longstanding duration".

The report found the exact number of falsified breath tests was unable to be established due to there being multiple ways in which tests were falsified.

Data analysis alone could not accurately determine a figure.

READ MORE: Police Admit Faking More Than 250,000 Roadside Breath Tests

Comrie said many frontline officers were not aware of the practice, and that there was "no evidence" senior members knew it was taking place.

But he said the issue showed an ethical failure within the force.

“The practice of falsifying preliminary breath tests has been a blight on Victoria Police’s otherwise world-leading road safety regime," Road Policing Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane said on Thursday. 

“We have made it absolutely clear to our police that the practice must stop.”

Image: AAP
'Unachievable targets'

Comrie's investigation found the major cause for the practice were "meaningless and unachievable" targets set by the force.

In 2017, Victoria Police increased its target for preliminary breath tests from 3.2m to 4.5m -- a decision that was not based on any "credible scientific evidence or articulated strategy".

Leane acknowledged the targets, saying they put frontline officers under enormous pressure.

"Over the next six months or so we'll be working with government and our road safety partners to make sure that we get the balance right for those targets," he said.

"We will work to ensure our targets are evidenced-led and achievable with due consideration."

READ MORE: 'Unrealistic Targets' Leading To 'Crisis' Culture Of Falsified Roadside Breath Tests

Police will look at introducing expensive tamper-proof technology to eradicate the practice -- one of the recommendations delivered by Comrie. Each device costs $1000, and Leane said the process would take "a significant amount of time".

Leane said the force would make it easier for staff to come forward with such issues, but remained committed to roadside breath testing.

"It has been an important change and it has affected the way that we behave... It has saved lives."

The force has accepted all of the 23 recommendations handed down in the report.

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