FOUR CORNERSMonday 5 July 1993
ABBOTT, Cec - Head, Drug Squad, NSW Police (archive tape)
ANDERSON, Peter - former Minister of Police, NSW
AVERY, John - former Police Commissioner, NSW Police
BECK, Merv - former Head, Gaming Squad, NSW Police
BLISSETT, Ray - former Head, CIB, NSW Police
BOURKE, Andrew - constable, NSW Police (archive tape)
BRADBURY, Bob - former Chief Superintendent, NSW Police
DRURY, Michael - Senior Sergeant, Drug Enforcement Agency
FREEMAN, George - SP bookmaker (archive tape)
HANSON, Fred - Police Commissioner (archive tape)
LANFRANCHI, Howard - brother of Warren Lanfranchi
MARTIN, Fran - former member, CIB, Victoria Police
OTTON, Trevor - former police officer, NSW Police
PICKERING, Ted - former Minister for Police and Emergency Service, NSW
ROGERSON , Roger - police officer, NSW Police (archive tape)
SAFFRON, Abe - alleged criminal (archive tape)
ANDREW OLLE: From the reporter who laid bare the Moonlight State, a disturbing new cops and robbers saga. Queensland was not alone. Every State in Australia it seems, has two police forces - the forces of good and evil. Tonight's program reveals how the fight against corruption continues to be frustrated by the close links between police and criminals, especially in New South Wales, the Green Light State. New South Wales now has one of the biggest police forces in the world. It has trebled its size in the last thirty years. What happens in the Green Light State affects policing throughout the country. As you will see, Victorian police have at times been so concerned about the impact of their corrupt colleagues over the border, that they have sent in special undercover surveillance units. The New South Wales authorities have tried to clean up the force but as Chris Masters reports, such entrenched corruption is hard to shift.
CHRIS MASTERS: When older residents of inner Sydney stand on their balconies and watch the junkies gather in the lanes below, they know as surely as the needle finds the vein, that these streets are lost. The traffic problem now stretches well beyond Kings Cross. Its uninterrupted flow may well be explained by Sydney's long-held bad habit of sponsoring or greenlighting crime. One who should know is the man who served the longest term as Police Minister in New South Wales, Ted Pickering.
TED PICKERING: My staff could tell me that each day they could see transactions occurring. I remember raising this in very strong terms with an officer responsible for the area, to be told that they couldn't apprehend those people because they couldn't be certain that there would be heroin in the little plastic package. I was told it might be Rinso, for example, and police would then be in an embarrassing situation. I didn't accept that sort of nonsense.
CHRIS MASTERS: Pickering's view is confirmed by another expert, a voice of experience, a voice from the streets.
UNIDENTIFIED: One could say that I get along the street and hear most things.
CHRIS MASTERS: This Sydney man knows even more about greenlighting. For thirty years he has made a living from crime and for thirty years he has stayed out of gaol.
UNIDENTIFIED: .... say, I have come to the firm conclusion now that most of the major people in these, maybe in these drugs matters are well protected. I have a firm belief that most of them are registered police informers.
CHRIS MASTERS: It's a large and complicated story; with 16,000 personnel, it's a large and complicated service. Beyond the uniformed and plain clothes divide, there are factions aplenty. In the old days, there were the Catholics and the Masons. These days there are the academics and the street-wise, the boozers and the boy scouts, the city and the country cops, the general duty police and the specialists, the clean-skins, the crooks, the friends and the enemies.
So here I am among friends and enemies and as usual, and here is the dilemma, it is difficult to tell them apart. What binds all these factions is an over-riding loyalty to the service. The good ones do have a problem exposing the bad ones because, as they see it, public confidence in all police is damaged. For what it is worth, it is a problem for me too. It is hard to attack the bad ones without hurting the good ones, so I should make it clear from the outset that the silent majority is not being attacked, except when appropriate, for its silence.
After being accused of bringing discredit to the force, Trevor Otton submitted his resignation on a sheet of toilet paper. He is one of the majority to break the silence.
TREVOR OTTON: Well, they sort you out. You are recognised either as part of the club or not part of the club, and keep in mind, the biggest club is the ones that aren't the crooks. It is only the small minority they are talking about, gives the other people the name. The corruption is still there.
CHRIS MASTERS: In the last decade, an overdue cleanup of the backyard was begun but there is a long way to go. You have to go back to the preceding decades to see why there is so much work to do, to fully comprehend the accumulated rotting weight of history.
What was the big money in say the '60s and the '70s?
UNIDENTIFIED: Definitely the SP and the casinos because there is no doubt, I don't think, to anybody, that it was well protected. In regard to the SP, there was those that weren't protected and the little fellows that was trying to get a quid in the pubs. They used to just pinch the fellows in the pubs and I suppose that is enough pinches -everybody is happy.
CHRIS MASTERS: A year ago it was easy to find the Forbes Club. The words 'Forbes Club' were painted in yard-long letters on the side of the building. Today, that is blotted out.
JOURNALIST: An illegal casino is operating in Kembla Street only a few hundred metres from the Police Station - is it or isn't it?
POLICE OFFICER: Yes.
JOURNALIST: Why isn't it closed down?
POLICE OFFICER: You had better ask people in another sphere other than police circles for that answer, the answer to that.
JOURNALIST: Isn't it your job as the senior policeman here, to close that casino down if it is against the law?
POLICE OFFICER: If I am able to, yes.
JOURNALIST: Why are you unable to?
POLICE OFFICER: I won't comment on that.
CHRIS MASTERS: Debate continues to this day, over who was more in control of the game - some politicians or some police.
RAY BLISSETT: I'd say the politicians had control.
MERV BECK: It is my belief and from the information that I have obtained, Chris, that it was a combined effort between the senior police of that era and the politicians, working together.
CHRIS MASTERS: For these decades, the force was run like a personal fiefdom. The public's appetite for order was well satisfied by their administration. This was a time when the police owned the streets. Indeed, when the Commissioner made his way to and from work, the officers on point duty could guarantee an uninterrupted passage.
There was greenlighting too for selected friends of the powerful. Criminals like the SP race-fixing king, George Freeman.
UNIDENTIFIED: The game would just go on. The police would just stand there and everybody would keep playing, till they slowly but surely conveyed everyone to a police station. In those days, everybody was John Cook, Peter Cook, Tom Cook, Bill Cook. What do you do? I am a cook. Where do you live? I am on holidays from Cooktown. And that was all accepted.
JOURNALIST: The South Australian Attorney-General says that you are well known for your criminal activities. How does that strike you - people say things like that to you, about you?
ABE SAFFRON: Well, he can say it behind the protection of Parliament but I don't think he would say it outside of Parliament.
CHRIS MASTERS: There was a hint of pride in the name 'Mr Sin' Sydney gave this man. Abe Saffron and other selected sinners were greenlighted. The sly grog shops traded openly; the nightclubs never closed. Here were good informers who engaged only in white crimes, staying away from black crimes like drug trafficking.
ARCHIVE TAPE: The Drug Squad of the New South Wales Police Force has recently been doubled. This is to handle the extra work involved in policing new laws that give the Drug Squad wider powers to control drug addiction in New South Wales.
CHRIS MASTERS: Thirty years ago the drug trade was an infant. So too was the New South Wales Drug Squad, then in control of a future Commissioner, Cec Abbott.
JOURNALIST: How seriously do you think we are threatened in the future with large scale drug addiction in this country?
CEC ABBOTT: I am not greatly worried about the position. I feel that Australians generally are not drug conscious.
CHRIS MASTERS: In the mid-'70s, a young Christine Nixon was one of the first female officers assigned to Darlinghurst, at the tangled centre of the jungle.
CHRISTINE NIXON: I think what you saw was a range of behaviours that nowadays would be called corruption. In those days, it was things like the same people being arrested; it was things that you sort of could not quite see but you knew were there, underneath; people who didn't get arrested who maybe should have been arrested; places that probably should have been closed down, but weren't.
CHRIS MASTERS: Throughout the '60s and '70s, there was a gentle upwards curb to corruption. The administration was compromised but it seemed not to matter so much. The serious consequence of institutional corruption would not be felt till later. From 1962 to 1972, the boss was Norman Allen.
Can we now say that he was honest?
MERV BECK: I think that he would be a brave man that would come forward and say that he was an honest man.
CHRIS MASTERS: Because the abortion rackets were running pretty hot in his time.
MERV BECK: In his time, they were.
CHRIS MASTERS: And then of course, he is followed by Fred Hanson. Would you be a brave man if you said he was honest?
MERV BECK: Most decidedly.
CHRIS MASTERS: You would be a fool in fact, wouldn't you?
MERV BECK: Yes.
RAY BLISSETT: He was stationed up there in Broken Hill where there was plenty of graft, plenty of booze, one thing and another, and later on he was at Wollongong where there was plenty of that kind of thing. And he developed into a man when he became Commissioner, was not fitted to be Commissioner because of his bad habits.
JOURNALIST: Commissioner, do you think the police are paid enough to attract and keep the best men?
FRED HANSON: I think they could use more.
CHRIS MASTERS: Four Corners is aware that even in retirement, Fred Hanson continued to receive his weekly presents. Scandal also accompanied his chosen successor, Merv Wood.
RAY BLISSETT: You take old George Walker's 'Golden Club'. Now what happened there? The Premier said those places had to be shut, and what did Merv Wood do? He said, 'Let this one stay open until after Christmas'. He said, 'We can't put them out of work before Christmas'. Well now, that's a pretty weak effort on the part of a Commissioner of Police, isn't it, eh?
CHRIS MASTERS: Wood was later accused, with Chief Stipendiary Magistrate, Murray Farquhar, of corruptly interfering in a drugs trial. The matter later died of old age well after Woods' sudden resignation. New South Wales' bad habits were catching up and 1981 proved the blackest of years. In May, another greenlighted criminal, drug trafficker Robert Trimbole, escaped Australia after allegedly being tipped off by a close contact in the New South Wales Police Force. In June, the man who was to become the Deputy Commissioner, Bill Allen, also took off on an overseas trip underwritten by the underworld, and three weeks later, this deadly force went too far.
The ICAC has now reopened the file on the shooting of Warren Lanfranchi. He was killed in broad daylight by Roger Rogerson, New South Wales' most celebrated detective. Rogerson's close friend and informant, the gangster Neddy Smith, had delivered Lanfranchi here to Dangar Place. It was well known that Lanfranchi was violent and dangerous. What was not so well known was that Rogerson's friend, Smith, was feuding with Lanfranchi over a heroin deal. Rogerson shot Lanfranchi twice. He claimed the bullets were fired in self-defence in quick succession.
Howard, why shouldn't we accept the police account of what happened to your brother?
HOWARD LANFRANCHI: We had been warned that this was going to happen to Warren, up to a month before it did happen. He knew that there was a possibility that he was going to be shot, yet he still attended. I don't believe he had a gun.
CHRIS MASTERS: At the inquest, it was determined no offence had occurred, but the jury refused to accept that Lanfranchi had been shot in self defence.
What happened here disturbed a great many people, police included. Some of the police involved have later privately expressed concern that they had not known at the time, of the extent of Rogerson's relationship with Smith. Some have also, I understand, made the comment that they wished they had never been near Dangar Place. They wish the matter could be gone and forgotten, but that, I have to say, is extremely unlikely.
At the time of the Lanfranchi shooting, New South Wales was about as on the nose as you can get, to a range of other police services, notably the Victorians and the Federal Police. While the new Commissioner, Jim Lees, was trusted, the man directly below him, Bill Allen, and the man directly above him, Bill Crabtree, were not. A month after the Lanfranchi shooting, the Victorians staged an extraordinary surveillance mission to prove their northern colleagues were crook.
Fran Martin was one of a small undercover team from the Victorian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence who arrived here, outside New South Wales' police headquarters.
FRAN MARTIN: The information that we had at that time was that a member from the 21 Division was going to bring some money here, which he would take up to the Deputy Commissioner, Allen's office. And what our information was that he would then take that down to Parliament House and deliver it to a Member of Parliament, Mr Crabtree.
CHRIS MASTERS: Some senior Victoria police have told me that they believed that some New South Wales police were actually responsible for staging armed holdups in Victoria, and then providing sanctuary, protection, alibis, for the criminals who fled north across the border.
And this remarkable vigilante mission of August 1981, when the Victorians actually staked out New South Wales police headquarters, shows just how intense mistrust had become.
FRAN MARTIN: We were expecting him to walk past us and actually go down to Parliament House, but he didn't. He walked out to a vehicle which was a police vehicle, which was parked at the kerb, and he got in that. There was a driver in the vehicle and they drove away. By the time we got to our car which was down there, we missed them.
CHRIS MASTERS: The mission did not go to plan. The evidence collected proved nothing, but it also did nothing to abate suspicion. The very next month, Minister Crabtree moved from the Police portfolio. A later internal inquiry cleared him and others of the corruption allegation. Crabtree's successor, Peter Anderson, had barely arrived in his office when the scandal broke.
PETER ANDERSON: I remember, I think it was about 9.05 in the morning of 26 October 1981, indelibly imprinted upon my mind, and then-Commissioner Jim Lees rang me and said he had to see me. I said, certainly, come straight down. He did.
CHRIS MASTERS: Four Corners has obtained a copy of a confidential file sent to Anderson by Commissioner Lees. The file identifies many influential police beyond Deputy Commission Allen, who were also believed to be corrupt. This was not a report about a rotten apple - it was more about a rotten barrel.
PETER ANDERSON: It's not a question of the rotten apple. It was a question of what evidence would be forthcoming from the investigation. Now, I think as a Minister, I was entitled to assume that these things having been said, they would be properly investigated, which I believe they were, and that anything else that then arose during the course of the inquiry, would also be investigated.
CHRIS MASTERS: The investigations revealed nothing. It was business as usual and if you want a good example of how business was done, listen to this conversation, revealed at the current ICAC inquiry. The ICAC contend one party was a Sergeant Ron Daly, the other was the gangster, Neddy Smith.
POLICE OFFICER: I have known you too long.
NEDDY SMITH: Oh mate, I am very generous to you, you know that.
POLICE OFFICER: You look after me all the time.
CHRIS MASTERS: The tape was legally recorded by the Australian Federal Police in 1983. There were many more such tapes. We will never know how many were buried. In the late '60s, Commissioner Norman Allen sanctioned the practice of illegal tape recordings. The telephone intercepts had trawled through the underworld for seventeen years, frequently unwittingly catching other police in the net. When this so-called 'Age tapes' scandal broke there was panic among the teams engaged in the illegal recordings. Fearing that charges would be brought against them, they set about obliterating the evidence. One team headed out from Sydney Harbour in March of 1984. Crammed into an iron box was a corruption history of New South Wales. They anchored their boat over one of the deeper channels into which this treasure trove of history disappeared.
MERV BECK: I am convinced through my information, that it would have opened up a Pandora's box and it may well have brought things to a head much earlier than what has occurred.
EXTRACT: SCALES OF JUSTICE
POLICE OFFICER: There's the gun.
ACCUSED: I never saw it before. You planted it ....
POLICE OFFICER: You were on the first floor of Dankens drug warehouse, blasting their security guard.
ACCUSED: I am not wearing that one, Mr Miles.
POLICE OFFICER: I haven't got you in here because you are overdue. You are here because you were there, son.
ACCUSED: Who says.
POLICE OFFICER: I do, and so do you. You have got a big mouth. Word gets back.
ACCUSED: I am not wearing murder.
CHRIS MASTERS: Decades of apathy and inattention had created a monster.
POLICE OFFICER: What are we going to do with you, Barry?
ACCUSED: You can go as hard or soft as you like, Mr Miles, but I am not wearing this one.
CHRIS MASTERS: We caught a glimpse of the monster in the ABC's remarkably prescient drama, Scales of Justice. Here was a character study of the elite A-grade detectives, drawn from the power base of policing, the Criminal Investigation Branch, or CIB.
CHRISTINE NIXON: You know, they held the power, they held the sway. They also knew the secrets. You know, they were the ones who were at Kings Cross at 3.00 am in the morning and saw various prominent members of the community who maybe shouldn't have been there. So in some ways, they had a lot of information about people that really the rest of the police force didn't have.
POLICE OFFICER: I want a favour. You're on a retainer down through Roche, for a good friend of the Premier's.
ACCUSED: Who told you that shit?
POLICE OFFICER: Bullshit, Nipper. Every time they need a bit of muscle and all else fails, you deliver the heavies.
Now, what's with you, Nipper? What's all this ducking and weaving? Nothing has changed. I can still tie you up tighter than a duck's arsehole, and that is watertight.
CHRIS MASTERS: It showed how corruptly powerful the A-grade detectives had become. It showed how effortlessly they could put away criminals who had crossed the line. It showed how effortlessly they had crossed the line themselves.
POLICE OFFICER: I don't want any cock-ups on this, Nipper. The order has to come from the top.
ACCUSED: This is going to put you and I under a lot of obligation, Mick.
JOHN AVERY: The over-cosy relationship with informants tended to obscure or blind some of them to their ethical responsibilities, because they saw that their relationship with the informant was productive and like, you know, crims.
CHRIS MASTERS: In this episode, there was a dramatic conclusion. The police eliminated a criminal who knew too much. Soon after, in a real life script, criminals attempted to eliminate a policeman who knew too much.
MICHAEL DRURY: I was mindful that something was going to happen. I had a premonition but I didn't believe it would happen in those circumstances.
CHRIS MASTERS: Michael Drury, an undercover Drug Squad detective, was to give evidence against a Melbourne heroin dealer. The dealer commissioned the shooting, he alleged, with the help of a New South Wales policeman, Roger Rogerson . It was the curtain rod that saved Drury, deflecting the second bullet away from the heart into the shoulder.
MICHAEL DRURY: It was twenty years before its time. It was like Chicago in the 1920s, or Colombia in the 1990s. If I had my way, that's never going to happen to another young police officer, ever, if I had my way.
PETER ANDERSON: I can remember it happening and it was just as if the whole thing changed from that moment on. Police had been killed on duty in a variety of places, since time immemorial, but here we had a situation where a police officer had been gunned down in his own home in front of his wife and kids. And it was just unbelievable, unthinkable, unacceptable.
TV NEWS: Two loud gunshots rang out. An off-duty Sydney Drug Squad detective slumped over his kitchen sink with bullet wounds to his chest and stomach.
CHRIS MASTERS: When Drury was shot, it was as if all of the CIB ducked for cover. The shooting should have woken up the Criminal Investigation Branch. It could have been the catharsis that brought on the cure, but the force, haunted by its past, appeared terrified of what it might find. The early investigation faltered and stumbled. It would be described as appalling and shameful. Melbourne heroin dealer, Alan Williams, later confessed to conspiring to kill Drury with the help of the hero of the New South Wales CIB, Roger Rogerson, and Rogerson's friend, the professional killer, Chris Flannery. Flannery disappeared within a year.
TV NEWS: For Roger Rogerson, it was the third time he had faced a criminal charge and his third not guilty verdict.
CHRIS MASTERS: Despite Williams' evidence, Rogerson was acquitted. There are no complaints about the quality of the verdict but there are complaints about the quality of the investigation.
MICHAEL DRURY: You know, one can perhaps use the words of Mr Howard Pernell, Queen's Counsel, in his advice to the Government on the investigation, that I was treated like a suspect and not a victim.
CHRIS MASTERS: For any serious investigation anywhere in Australia, you can't do better than recruit the Dirty Harrys of the New South Wales Police Service. They know every corner of the jungle, they get the job done. So you have to ask yourself what went wrong here. Four Corners is aware of concern to this day, about potential important witnesses not being interviewed. New South Wales detectives boast about their bold brotherhood. They claim their bond is loyalty and trust. What the Drury case shows is the fraud of this notion - the far more powerful force in the service is disloyalty and mistrust.
MERV BECK: There was always a threat if anybody spoke out of turn, that they would have the .... everybody would be onto them and call them names and the like, much like the criminals do. They call each other dogs, and things like that.
CHRIS MASTERS: The Dirty Harrys, the A-graders, the tough men of the CIB, although only a small contingent of the force, have long held a mortgage on serious graft. They have also long held a mortgage on serious promotions, and now there was to be another break from tradition.
TV NEWS: The job of succeeding Mr Abbott will be a difficult one.
CHRIS MASTERS: The appointment of John Avery meant at last the tough men of the CIB were in for the fight of their lives.
PETER ANDERSON: There was a lot of unhappiness when he was appointed. I remember people saying they have appointed an academic who has never seen an angry man. Yet if you actually looked at his service record, he probably had more operational experience than anyone else.
CHRIS MASTERS: John Avery was an appointment from the blue. He had worked the beat in Port Macquarie. The Methodist lay preacher had never worked as a detective. In short, he was seen as a boy scout, but to their surprise, Avery had more than enough mongrel to tackle the A-graders.
JOHN AVERY: I always admired Teddy Roosevelt's dictum, that you speak softly and carry a big stick.
CHRIS MASTERS: Avery would change the force forever. From now on, police would be promoted by merit instead of seniority. The country cop pushed for a better educated police officer, and an officer who worked with rather than against the community. He also attacked the time-honoured code of silence.
JOHN AVERY: I think it is dying out, and if they didn't like it, well that's a bit of tough luck. But it had to be pursued and I said it over and over again, publicly. I also said over and over again, publicly, we are going to do something about corruption.
CHRIS MASTERS: Avery revived the Internal Police Security Unit, seen here on a raid. The IPSU brief was not to respond to corruption but to search and destroy. They would swiftly become the most despised squad in the history of the service. Trevor Otton was one target.
TREVOR OTTON: I dismissed the IPSU as a complete, just a blood-letting squad. I think .... my opinion of the IPSU were put there politically to show to the general public that the hierarchy of the police department were serious.
CHRIS MASTERS: An unusually determined IPSU led one attack on the CIB power base. Division four, Avery's policy of dividing the service into four regions was seen as another. By the mid-'80s they had lined up a firing squad of dismissals and demotions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Avery has recommended that Mr Bradbury, one of the State's most senior and experienced policemen, be demoted from Chief Superintendent to Superintendent, and transferred to the office of the Assistant Commissioner.
BOB BRADBURY: Well, I am not very happy of course, with such a recommendation by the Commissioner, but .....
CHRIS MASTERS: Men who only yesterday were encouraged to bend the rules, men who had been seen as future Commissioners, were hunted from the force. Rogerson at the top of the list, held strong support throughout the purge. Many police paid into his fighting fund. Support reportedly wavered when the IPSU produced evidence of over $100,000 held by Rogerson under false names. The hero of the CIB held on until July 1986. Soon after his dismissal, the force was regionalised and the CIB power base broken up.
MICHAEL DRURY: As any good administrator would, as Mr Avery did, he broke down and regionalised the CIB, and really that break-down of the CIB was not caused by Mr Avery. It was caused by perhaps one or two within the CIB, who betrayed the police, they betrayed the CIB, and they betrayed the community of New South Wales.
CHRIS MASTERS: If those being hunted by the IPSU wanted a rest, they were out of luck. In 1988, a Liberal Government was elected. The new Police Minister was another Methodist lay preacher with another streak of mongrel. Ted Pickering did the impossible, becoming even less popular than the IPSU.
TED PICKERING: The Commander of IPSU reported to me each month. To read his report was enough to send your hair grey. It was a terrible problem facing us.
CHRIS MASTERS: The purge developed into a siege. The opposing forces were described at the time as white knights and black knights. This was a dangerous over-simplification of a complicated contest.
CHRISTINE NIXON: I suppose some of us wondered about their investigative skills. Investigating and prosecuting police is probably the toughest thing that any police investigator actually has to do. Police officers are very good, not just in this country but all over the world, at protecting themselves, and in that sense, I think the IPSU's job was a very tough one.
CHRIS MASTERS: The IPSU would be criticised for a lack of skill and a lack of honour. There were accusations that old fashioned copper tricks like verballing and loading, that is planting and manufacturing evidence, were again dusted off.
TREVOR OTTON: There's a couple there that I had a great deal of admiration for, but there were some there that were just straight out verballers. They were in it for promotion and in it to let the blood they were directed to let, and to satiate the public demand. Let's start to look clean, not necessarily be clean. Let's start to look clean.
TV NEWS: Yesterday the police made the running, giving their version of how they shot the wrong man at 193 Sydenham Road, Marrickville, in Sydney.
CHRIS MASTERS: An immediate consequence of corruption reform can be an increase in crime as the old systems collapse and an increase in the belief that things are worse rather than better.
TV NEWS: On Sunday, Darren Brennan became the latest unarmed casualty of a bungled police raid, his face peppered by pellets from a Tactical Response Group shotgun.
CHRIS MASTERS: For the enemies of Avery and Pickering, there was plenty to gloat about.
RAY BLISSETT: There was corruption in the police force when I joined and there was corruption when I retired. But there has been more of a song and dance about it since I retired because Mr J K Avery, with due respect to him, he said he was going to cleanse the force - in fact were his words - and as far as I am concerned, he made a bloody mess of it.
CHRIS MASTERS: If you believe the police case, 59-year-old Harry Blackburn has led an extraordinary double life. In July 1989, retired Inspector Harry Blackburn was arrested, paraded and charged with serial rape. Three months later he was cleared and the investigation found guilty. Avery was blamed for using his D-grade while his stars were sin-binned.
The Blackburn affair, was that in any way a consequence of the loss of the second row, the loss of some of those skills? I mean, I have heard it suggested that it would not have happened under the old guard.
JOHN AVERY: Well, all sorts of things happened under the old guard. I mean, it was a debacle as far as we were concerned.
CHRIS MASTERS: Avery did set about changing the guard and replacing missing skills. In the mid-'80s a dedicated residential training college was established at Goulburn. Thirty years ago, graduates could be dumped in Kings Cross after only eight weeks training. The recruitment training course now spans two years. There is, after all, a great deal more to learn. The police service inevitably reflects the values of the community it is drawn from. Here is a group of young Australians that has just graduated from a community with a broad tolerance of drug use.
TREVOR OTTON: I think it is more understood by young police because I would suggest that between 40 and 50 percent of young police do use the light drugs, ie cannabis, mostly cannabis socially. It is more recognised. I don't suggest they look after the drug offender but then again, they have got to buy it from somewhere, so they are buying it from a seller or a supplier.
CHRIS MASTERS: Nothing has brought more chaos, nothing has brought more corruption, nothing has changed policing so much as the drug trade. Thirty years ago, two men in grey business suits made up the Drug Squad - now there are hundreds. The men in space suits are from the Drug Enforcement Agency. They are busting up an amphetamine lab. The backyard labs of the '90s are less prolific but more profitable than the sly grog shops of the '60s, and their power to corrupt make the betting shops of the '70s look timid.
CHRISTINE NIXON: The problem about drugs is there is just so much money and it is a very difficult area to know. I mean, clearly the druggies aren't going to tell you if yes, they had a certain amount of money and now they don't have that much money any more. I think some of them do, so it's meant that I think we have had to be a lot more careful and try and invent procedures and groups and ways of dealing with drugs, that try and eliminate or at least come to terms, I suppose, with the potential for corruption in that area.
CHRIS MASTERS: Amphetamines, the drug of the '90s, are as common as street lights, illuminating the nightlife of thousands of Australians. It is no fault of the police that the drug trade is largely unenforceable. The crime has recruited a less predictable criminal, a criminal less adaptable to control, indeed, many of them are our own children. Despite the extra effort of drug law enforcement, there is little discernible impact on the streets.
CHRISTINE NIXON: Do you ever make a difference, does it ever change? I mean, heroin used to be the major issue and it moves out of favour and then cocaine moves in, and I guess previous to that, it was marijuana, and it's then amphetamines, and so on. And it's just a different name maybe, but it just grows and changes and I am not sure that much of what law enforcement in fact can do, can make much of a difference.
POLICE OFFICER: Okay, she is just leaving the terminal now. She is looking around. She's carrying a green bag and the attache case.
CHRIS MASTERS: So here is the problem - when it can't be policed, when the public don't care, we are tasting more of the same potion that poisoned the past.
UNIDENTIFIED: I am sure that the only way the police function at all is through informers.
CHRIS MASTERS: What you are seeing now is a DEA operation that teaches young officers to catch the bigger drug dealers ethically, but expecting them to do it by the rules in a world where there are no rules, where no-one speaks the truth, is optimistic. The easiest way to get users to give up suppliers is to become a supplier yourself. The easiest way to catch a drug dealer is to become a drug dealer.
POLICE OFFICER: She has met up with a second person.
POLICE OFFICER: Okay, all cars. They are leaving the Hilton now, walking over toward a blue Commodore vehicle. Bags in the back seat, in the vehicle, moving off now. Can someone take them away please.
UNIDENTIFIED: It is not very difficult to recognise a junkie. They pull a junkie up, they ramp him. If he happens to have any gear on him they take the gear to save for some other poor bastard. They take their money, ask them as many questions as they can, where they got it, how they got their money.
CHRIS MASTERS: The easiest way to get large arrests but essentially make no difference is the same way the old gaming and vice squads operated in the '60s. You give a green light to people in return, at the least, for information.
UNIDENTIFIED: I feel that most of the people who get arrested for drugs are only the people that have sort of got to work at the coalface. They are doing it direct with the junkies. None of the principals ever seem to find any trouble, from what I have heard. They are the ones that I believe are the registered police informers.
POLICE OFFICER: ..... is coming into the car park now.
POLICE OFFICER: Okay, all cars move in, move in.
CHRIS MASTERS: And when drugs and cash are seized, who is going to complain if police take a share in return for dropping or reducing charges? The old rationale of taking money from favoured gaming operators applies equally in this world. Why not be rewarded for thankless work? Far better that than have the lawyers spend the money.
UNIDENTIFIED: And if they are unco-operative they may let them go after they have got whatever they had, and if they run into them again and they are not co-operative, well they pinch them for using drugs. All of a sudden they sit back at the police station and they have got a drawer full for anyone they want to give it to.
CHRIS MASTERS: Since it was formed in 1989, the Drug Enforcement Agency has had some wins, but according to a secret Independent Commission Against Corruption report, it has had some embarrassing losses too. The DEA has used large sums of taxpayers' money to buy drugs. It is photocopied like this, before it is let run, and on at least three known occasions, this is the last they saw of it. Despite the eagle eye of Polair overhead and twenty-seven officers on the ground, $340,000 was lost on one occasion. On previous occasions, two lots of close to $100,000 also disappeared into the night. In three years, the DEA is understood to have lost at least three-quarters of a million dollars to the streets.
That is one example of police involvement in the drug trade. Here is another. In June 1992, an officer stationed in one of the quieter corners of the jungle, at French's Forest, announced he had been shot. In time, the gossip from the forest told a different story. Why Bourke was shot is still a mystery but we do know that in investigating the incident, a long-term practice of officers stealing drugs from the station's exhibit room was uncovered. The thefts occurred at the very time the Minister was making a fuss about police raiding the exhibit room or as he put it, the tuck shop.
TED PICKERING: At no stage in the four years that I was the Minister, despite all of my frustrations in terms of closing the tuck shop and related matters, at no stage did I ever receive a satisfactory explanation from my department as to why the delays occurred; why I received so much bad advice. I have never received an explanation. I sought it on many occasions, never received it.
CHRIS MASTERS: In the aftermath, an Assistant Commissioner was suspended for allegedly attempting to smother the affair. Six officers at the station, including Constable Bourke, were charged with misconduct, but the wider problem of drug security remains unresolved.
TED PICKERING: I spent my entire term as Minister, which was a record term, to try to secure drugs in New South Wales and when I left the service, I had still not succeeded. Security of drugs in this State is still not right and that frankly, makes me very unhappy.
CHRIS MASTERS: By now, Commissioner Avery had retired back to the country. He was replaced by a graduate of the Internal Police Security Unit, Tony Lauer.
TED PICKERING: Tony, I look forward to working with you for a long time to come. All the very best.
CHRIS MASTERS: As it turned out, the Minister and his new Commissioner began to give a good impression of not being able to stand one another.
JOHN FAHEY: A short time ago, I received the resignation from the Honourable Ted Pickering.
CHRIS MASTERS: By the end of 1992, Pickering was also gone, after a dispute over whether or not he had been informed of an attempted suicide in a police lockup. The sense of urgency about corruption reform lost with the passing of Pickering and Avery, was picked up just as quickly by a bunch of bureaucrats outside the police, at the Independent Commission Against Corruption. The choice and character of their star witness, Neddy Smith, was condemned by the cops, but what they could not refute is this rapist, murderer, armed robber and drug trafficker, has been given the green light to commit many of these dangerous crimes for almost a decade.
Not since the 1970s has New South Wales police corruption resembled the pattern revealed in Queensland in the 1980s. Here, corruption moves out rather than up. There are appearing and disappearing cells of malevolence. The force is so large that not even the eye of the ICAC can get above it and see it all. The culture is so secretive that you can work beside a crooked officer and never be allowed to see a shadow of corruption. Getting a picture of the shape of New South Wales police corruption has exasperated everyone, including the ICAC. Here is part of a primitive diagram of the corruption network produced by the Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence in the mid-80s. Getting the New South Wales police to round up the network was a greater exasperation.
TED PICKERING: That operation was in fact directed at a significant number of officers who were said to be acting corruptly. Now it is a sad fact that that operation was very quickly compromised by persons unknown. We even got to the stage where one Sunday the paper could print on the back page the location of an observation post that police were using to surveil the chief suspect. That's why I went to the National Crime Authority, and the fruits of that of course, are now starting to appear through ICAC.
CHRIS MASTERS: Here is a more contemporary diagram of liaisons between police and criminals, both dangerous and otherwise, produced by the ICAC. A former ASIO analyst has described it as the most complex jigsaw he has ever seen, so complex that no one person could keep it in their head.
TED PICKERING: What you will find in New South Wales is individual pockets of corruption where one or two or three officers are involved acting corruptly, in collusion and that's a far more difficult thing, I guess, to attack than a totally institutionalised corrupt system.
POLICE INSTRUCTOR: It's a difficult job and if it is the right thing to do, you are going to dob in your mate.
CHRIS MASTERS: So, how corrupt is the New South Wales police service today? These police recruits undergoing an ethics training course are living proof of the prodigious efforts made to turn the force around. The Goulburn factor, as it's known, is having an impact. Honest cops are now more prepared to stand up to the crooks.
POLICE RECRUIT: Once you have had someone cover you, they will cover you again. You will expect them to cover you again. It just leads - one lie leads to another.
CHRIS MASTERS: But it always was a volatile place and in this sense, nothing has changed. The advent of the drug trade has made honest policing even more difficult and dangerous. Half the force are now under the age of thirty. A wealth of experience has departed but influential pockets of the old guard remain. It is not a happy job, not a happy place. The allure of pulling on the black leather jacket fades quickly. The size of the salary and the scope for promotions cannot prevent the plunder.
TREVOR OTTON: The old days are the old days. With the new breed, they are going to have a terrible time. It is going to be sad. You think you are seeing troubles now, you give it another five years.
CHRIS MASTERS: But at police headquarters right now, there are already furrowed brows. In three separate arrests of suspected offenders of this $1.4 million robbery, there were three separate allegations of theft of the proceeds by police. After information was provided by Queensland police, two Sydney detectives have been charged with the alleged theft of $90,000; two further arrests produced two further accusations of money theft by different police.
TV NEWS: Four Melbourne detectives came here to Bankstown Police Station today, in Sydney's western suburbs. It is understood they questioned at least one New South Wales police officer about a $1 million jewellery robbery in bayside Elwood.
CHRIS MASTERS: In the 1970s, Victoria police would complain of New South Wales police staging robberies in their State. Some Victoria police are wondering whether anything has changed. They have questioned two New South Wales police officers about an alleged involvement in the theft of over $1 million of jewellery and cash. One New South Wales officer, Sergeant Laurie Burgess, has been suspended. And we all might wonder what has changed considering an ICAC investigation of the New South Wales Gaming Squad. In the '60s they got a quid from the game. In the '90s, it is no different. Three Gaming Squad detectives are now under suspension for accepting cash and favours.
And there is more. The New South Wales Ombudsman is now investigating an allegation from a police officer than an informant working to one regional drug unit, had $12,000 taken from him by members of another regional drug unit. Certainly the stories of criminals losing money to police have littered the back lanes of this city for decades and it is not hard to understand why they don't complain to the Ombudsman.
UNIDENTIFIED: It is virtually accepted. I mean, the only people that would blow up about having their money taken by the police would probably .... .... But anyone else they've just lost.
CHRIS MASTERS: Who do you complain to?
UNIDENTIFIED: Do you complain to the police about the police? It's like a kid getting smacked by his mother. He doesn't complain to his father, does he, because he's got no hope?
CHRIS MASTERS: How easy is it for the New South Wales police force to confront its past?
CHRISTINE NIXON: It's necessary.
TED PICKERING: No-one had an answer. How do you deal with the officer who was once corrupt in a corrupt environment, who is wanting to do the right thing now but is bedevilled by his past?
CHRIS MASTERS: Because if you don't address the past, you are sentenced to repeat it.
CHRISTINE NIXON: You are. That's exactly the case.
CHRIS MASTERS: The cleansing of the force has a way to go. Veteran police and criminals will confess a wistful regard for the old days when there was order, when corruption was organised, when the town was bent, but it was safe to walk the streets. In the '90s, corruption is a bigger problem because it is less publicly acceptable, more difficult to detect, and because the New South Wales service has grown so much. Since the '60s, the force as it was then known, has trebled in size to a billion dollar corporation that is too large for any one person to understand, let alone control. For all that, the New South Wales police enjoy surprising goodwill. It is somehow understood in the Green Light State that the tangled web is not all their own work, having trapped the police just as comprehensively as it traps us all.
ANDREW OLLE: Chris Masters and the Green Light State.