But Office of Police Integrity (OPI) director Michael Strong admitted the fact that files from the watchdog’s office were uncovered in a garage in Melbourne’s north on September 10 was a major security breach.
The boxes of files found during the raid contained sensitive national security and law enforcement documents, including files from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the OPI and West Australian police.
Mr Strong said he had been assured by his staff that the files relating to the OPI, although they contained names, would not put anyone at risk.
“My senior staff have assured me that so far as the OPI documents are concerned … there is no risk to any member of the police force or any member of the public,” Mr Strong told Fairfax Radio on Wednesday.
Mr Strong said the documents belonged to a former head of the electronic collections unit responsible for monitoring telephone intercepts.
Possible breach of company policy
Mr Strong emphasised that no files were missing from the OPI offices but it was possible the documents in question were removed in contravention of company policy.
“There are some copied documents and notes that were found in a box at certain premises but there are no missing files,” Mr Strong said.
“We’re obviously shocked and alarmed by what may have occurred … shocked and alarmed by the removal of documents from the office,” he said.
“Obviously, any security breach involving OPI documents and documents from other agencies has to be called a major security breach, there is no other word for it,” Mr Strong said.
“Anything like this impacts adversely on our credibility and I’m concerned about that.
“It’s a pity that it’s happened.”
Mr Strong said the former employee, who had also worked for the other organisations whose documents were found, had come to the OPI with an impeccable record.
Victoria Police chief commissioner Simon Overland also said he did not believe police or individuals’ safety had been compromised by the OPI/Victoria Police files.
He said the ASIO document found was an acknowledgment of a job application and would not constitute a threat to ASIO or national security.
“Obviously it’s a concern that this material has found its way out of the organisation,” he told Fairfax Radio.
He confirmed some of the material found related to Victoria Police but had come from the offices of the OPI.
Acting Premier Rob Hulls said he would be briefed on exactly what occurred but he had full faith in Mr Strong.
Victoria Police is investigating the matter.