The Queensland Police Service (QPS) has mistakenly told a Sunshine Coast man his claim of police corruption had been substantiated by an official investigation.
However, the QPS has now said that was a grave error and has been forced to apologise because no such finding ever occurred.
David Bruckner told the ABC’s 7.30 program he was furious.
“I’m in disbelief and I’m angry, I can’t believe they’ve backflipped like this,” he said.
In February last year, Mr Bruckner wrote to Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) calling for an independent investigation into how police handled allegations that a former employee of his, Joanne Noller, had stolen $180,000.
After the police prosecution of Ms Noller failed with an acquittal by the Holland Park Magistrates Court a month earlier, Mr Bruckner wanted answers.
Mr Bruckner claimed in his letter to the CCC that the police investigation into Ms Noller was corrupted by a conflict of interest because her husband, Senior-Sergeant Geoff Noller, works for QPS.
He alleged the investigation was plagued by unnecessary delays, relevant evidence was ignored and police negligence resulted in Mr Bruckner being dismissed as a witness in court.
Bruckner felt ‘relief’ at incorrect letter
Those serious allegations were investigated for over a year by QPS’s Ethical Standards Command.
In February, Detective Superintendent PJ Savage sent Mr Bruckner a letter which said the Ethical Standards investigation had found in his favour.
“The investigation found the allegations have been substantiated and disciplinary action taken against the officer,” the letter said.
Mr Bruckner said he felt vindicated.
“When I got that letter, I felt relief — I felt finally my allegations had been substantiated,” he said.
“To have that substantiated by Ethical Standards, that’s the outcome I had been hoping for.”
However, that vindication was short-lived.
When QPS was contacted by the ABC’s 7.30 program this week, police said the letter by Detective Superintendent Savage was factually incorrect and it would contact Mr Bruckner immediately to correct the record.
In particular, the QPS rejected Mr Bruckner’s claim that a conflict of interest had unduly influenced the investigation into Ms Noller.
In a statement QPS told 7.30:
“The allegations made by Mr Bruckner have not been substantiated and discipline action has not been taken against any officer.
“[The investigation] did identify two separate managerial issues and guidance has been provided to one officer.”
Those managerial issues included an officer failing to undertake a timely investigation and to utilise police resources to undertake a thorough forensic analysis of evidence.
Mr Bruckner said the backflip was unacceptable and it has lead him to further question the competence of the QPS.
“How can a mistake like that be made? Surely there’s some checks and balances in place before a letter like that comes out from Ethical Standards,” he said.
“I’ve completely lost faith in Queensland Police after everything I’ve been through.”
In a statement, the CCC said it had monitored the police investigation by Ethical Standards Command and was satisfied with the outcome.
The statement added: “Corresponding with the complainant in this matter was the responsibility of the QPS.”