NSW’s top police chiefs pitted against each other in brutal public showdown
Deborah Cornwall reported this story on Thursday, January 29, 2015

MARK COLVIN: An extraordinary New South Wales parliamentary inquiry got underway today, pitting three of the state’s most senior police against each other in what is shaping up as the final brutal battle of a 15 year war inside the police force.

The inquiry centres on allegations of a mass cover up by police internal affairs and the state’s crime agencies. It involves a secret purge on police corruption that began in the late 90s and targeted at least 100 officers.

Top among them was the now deputy police commissioner Nick Kaldas, and his boss police commissioner Andrew Scipione, and his second deputy Catherine Burn ran the internal affairs unit that went after him.

Deborah Cornwall was at the inquiry today.

So can you explain? This is just very, very complicated, isn’t it? A 15-year-old police corruption inquiry has bought on a situation where you’ve got the state’s top three police chiefs at each other’s throats.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Yes, look, these are ancient grudges and old hurts, and I think to really understand just how toxic this issue has been for the New South Wales Police, you really need to go back to when this secret police purge was first launched.

MARK COLVIN: In the wake of the Wood Royal Commission, which people with long memories will recall, unveiled deep corruption inside the New South Wales Police Force.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: That’s right. And at the time, of course, the idea was that there needed to be a final cleanup of the force, and the investigation was led by the internal police affairs unit, but they were also working alongside the New South Wales Crime Commission, and later the Police Integrity Commission, which of course gave these internal affairs police amazing new powers when it came to bugging phones, secret cameras, surveillance, wire-taps, the lot.

MARK COLVIN: So what went wrong?

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Well, you know, the allegation is many of the internal affairs police investigators just blatantly abused those powers, and they used them to run personal vendettas and square-ups against police rivals, who were in fact honest police.

So out of the 112 police that were targeted, only a handful of them ever was there any evidence that stacked up against them.

And according to Nick Kaldas, it was just a free-for-all, which destroyed careers, and in one case a police officer actually suicided over it.

MARK COLVIN: So what is in today’s written submission by deputy commissioner Kaldas?

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Yeah, Nick Kaldas, I think – excuse me – he’s really taken the gloves off. He says in his submission that he felt compelled to go public on this, not just for himself, but for other officers who have been devastated by this whole process.

And he says the illegal activities of the police internal affairs were sanctioned and covered up by the Police Integrity Commission.

He’s described how subjected to intense electronic surveillance at his home and work, even his children and ex-wife were targeted. And he says police internal affairs made repeated attempts to entrap him using a police performer.

Attempts, he says, were so amateurish, they were bizarre.