Aussie cops probed over racism

2010-03-25 14:01

Melbourne - As many as 100 Australian police were being investigated on Thursday over racist e-mails circulated in an internal police e-mail system, a scandal that cost the life of one officer.

The police ethical standards department found multiple e-mails that were too shocking to be released publicly, Chief Commissioner Simon Overland said.

He would not confirm the subject matter of the e-mails but said some were "extremely serious, some are offensive", and he raised questions about some officers' suitability to their jobs in Victoria state.

"If the Victorian public were aware of the nature of that material, I believe that it's of such a nature that it would cause significant concern," Overland told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.

Overland said those who introduced the material into the police e-mail system would be fired.

He also confirmed a police officer who committed suicide earlier this week was one of two given notification their jobs were on the line.

Tony Vangorp, 47, tendered his resignation on Friday and returned to the police station on Monday night and shot himself.

Graphic torture

"A tragic event has happened," Overland said. "It's deeply, deeply regrettable and we need to learn the lessons but it doesn't mean that I can or should avoid my responsibilities around the good order and governance of Victoria Police."

The Age newspaper reported the investigation centred on a graphic image of a non-Caucasian man being tortured. It said computer experts tracking the e-mails found that several police had added further racist comments before forwarding the image.

The report said those who forwarded it would be cautioned, while those who added comments faced more serious discipline.

Overland refused to confirm whether the e-mails targeted Indians or Africans, two minority groups that have criticised police conduct in recent months.

Overland last week acknowledged a small minority of police officers were racist, in response to a report that said police suffered from a "culture of racism."