Trouble in the ranks for top cop Scipione
September 23, 2007
Three weeks after taking on the top job, Mr Scipione is trying to contain potential fallout from:
■ The investigation of two of his trusted senior commanders – Superintendent Rex Little and Superintendent Adam Purcell – by the Police Integrity Commission.
■ The medical discharge of Paul Nolan, a superintendent, who attempted suicide after being placed on notice by the PIC over an alleged gambling debt.
■ The specialist promotion to senior sergeant at internal affairs of Sergeant Damian Goodfellow, an officer with criminal convictions for assault and drink-driving.
■ Lingering questions surrounding the force’s top anti-corruption fighter, Assistant Commissioner Catherine Burn, who was among several officers involved in an eavesdropping fiasco.
Mr Scipione acknowledged the problems on Friday in response to questions from The Sun-Herald.
He confirmed Superintendent Little, who heads the Ku-ring-gai command, was one of two officers who remained under the PIC’s microscope.
It is understood he was stood down on non-performance grounds in May following complaints he had been absent from his Hornsby office. Similar allegations about Superintendent Little failing to report for duty had previously surfaced at Parramatta.
He had then been shifted to Hornsby to stand in for veteran commander Superintendent Paul Nolan, who was found unconscious in a Newcastle hotel room after overdosing on alcohol and sedatives, also in May. Superintendent Nolan had been suspended several weeks earlier, following a PIC inquiry.
At the time, the corruption watchdog’s concerns were unclear. However, The Sun-Herald understands they were focused on allegations concerning a gambling debt of about $100,000. Mr Scipione would only say Superintendent Nolan had since been released from the force on medical grounds.
Superintendent Purcell, the popular Hurstville commander, was also relieved of duty in June after it was revealed his phone had been tapped as part of a PIC probe into whether footballer Bryan Fletcher had been tipped off about a gang-rape complaint. Colleagues say the case against him amounts to a witch-hunt.
Mr Scipione said he was obliged to await the PIC’s findings before commenting on the Purcell case.
Asked about the force’s ability to police its own misconduct, he was more forthcoming.
He rejected “any suggestion of any unresolved concerns” over Ms Burn, the commander of the force’s Professional Standards branch.
Asked by The Sun-Herald if she was among several officers caught up in a wrongful-bugging investigation that sent shock waves through the ranks several years ago, he confirmed she was. But he insisted she had since passed several integrity tests in order to reach her current position.
More than 100 fellow police, criminals, lawyers and others were swept up as money laundering and corruption suspects during the affair.
Ms Burn was involved in conducting the sting rather than wrongfully tainted by it. Many of those who were targeted later received apologies but no one has ever been called to account.
In the case of Sergeant Goodfellow, Mr Scipione said that, following certain indiscretions, he had demonstrated his suitability to work in the same specialist area.
Sergeant Goodfellow pleaded guilty to assault after a drunken punch-up at a cricket match in 1999.
In 2002 he was arrested at gunpoint on suspicion of stealing and crashing an unmarked police car. He had rightful access to the vehicle but was fined and suspended for being drunk at the wheel. In 2003 he was among four off-duty officers hospitalised after a violent brawl at a Kings Cross strip club.
Mr Scipione said Sergeant Goodfellow’s promotion had been open and transparent.