In an embarrassing mistake by Victoria Police, hundreds of police officers have been incorrectly sworn in meaning that they were not legally police officers.
The administrative error impacts more than 1,000 officers who have been carrying out their duties in Victoria between 2014 and 2021 without any legal authority. Victoria Police Commissioner Shane Patton addressed the press on Thursday.
They were mistakenly sword in by Acting Assistant Commissioners who themselves were not endowed with the correct powers to swear in serving officers.
“We’ve acted swiftly to address the issue after it was uncovered by Victoria Police last week and confirmed by legal advice in recent days. We’ll continue working closely with Victoria Police to ensure the work of officers in keeping us safe is uninterrupted,” said Police Minister Lisa Neville.
To correct the error, executive levels of Victoria Police are setting up video conferences to correctly swear in 1076 officers over the weekend.
All of those officers have been instructed to talk to prosecutors if they have any pending cases due to confusion over the legality of their actions.
Does this mean that the officers involved are not technically police?
The Commissioner answered the difficult question on Melbourne’s 3AW.
“Well yeah, pretty much. They were sworn in, but the person swearing them in didn’t have the valid powers to do so, so they didn’t get the powers of a police officer.”
This is no idle administrative error.
Police operating for years without proper powers has created an incredibly difficult legal situation for the courts. The problem is essentially impossible to solve with current legal tools, and so it is expected that a piece of legislation will be rushed through Victorian parliament early next week to patch the error and automatically validate the actions of those officers to prevent a torrent of legal challenges to closed criminal cases.
The incident is doubly embarrassing for Victoria, which made a big show of ‘following rules’ throughout Covid and especially in the hounding of tennis star Novak Djokovic.