INDEPENDENT NEWS

Police investigation on staff emails

Published: Thu 21 Apr 2005 04:21 PM
Police investigation on staff emails
Police are conducting an internal investigation following the discovery of inappropriate images during an audit of their email system.
The audit identified a large number of emails containing inappropriate, potentially offensive, images distributed through or retained in the Police system.
Commissioner Rob Robinson says around 330 staff are today being handed letters about images found in their email accounts.
"Staff who have retained or passed on inappropriate, potentially objectionable or offensive material can expect to be dealt with seriously but fairly," Mr Robinson says.
"The public expect the highest possible standards of Police and we have commenced a process to seek explanations from staff relating to their possession of these images.
"It is possible that some staff may face criminal action while most will be subject to internal processes. The consequences could include compulsory education, counselling, adverse reports, reprimand and possible dismissal," Mr Robinson says.
The audit and follow up actions are purely an internal Police matter initiated by Police. The internal investigation is code named "Operation Insight".
Mr Robinson said the bulk of images found during the audit could be categorised as "inappropriate", or "likely to be offensive" rather than "objectionable" in the legal sense.
"Some of the particularly graphic images will be referred to the Office of the Film Censor as part of the process of assessing whether criminal charges should be considered.
"I am extremely disappointed that several hundred of our 10,000 staff have shown such poor judgement in retaining or forwarding on such images.
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Mr Robinson said there was no one area of police which was significantly better or worse with regard to where images were found and both sworn and non-sworn members were involved.
"Staff found to have inappropriate images in their emails are in a range of work groups and positions throughout the organisation.
"Files of all members of the Police Executive have been thoroughly checked and no inappropriate material was found."
"While I am deeply concerned at the extent to which inappropriate material has been retained or sent on by Police staff, this investigation should be seen as a proactive initiative by police to reinforce the high standards we require."
Mr Robinson said there was a tightening up of instructions and policy directives relating to email following an offensive email being sent from a police address distributed externally in September 2002.
He says since late 2003 new systems have been put in place to enable more effective monitoring and auditing of email and internet traffic.
Police will continue to enhance this software to allow even greater monitoring of individual internet and email use.
Mr Robinson says he is concerned that this latest investigation is seen in context.
"Police are a large and diverse organisation with nearly 10,000 staff. While we strive to maintain the highest possible standards our staff are a reflection of the community and the values and judgements they make probably echo this.
"Police members do, however, have to accept that they have a responsibility to maintain their personal integrity and that of the organisation and using workplace systems for private purposes involving sexually explicit images is not consistent with that.
"Images have been sourced from or sent to a range of public and private sector organisations as well as private residences.
"While many organisations have thorough auditing processes I'd urge anyone with computers in the workplace to do periodic checks and take advice from groups like the Internet Safety Group.
ENDS

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