Simon Overland Quits as Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police

The news a few minutes ago that Simon Overland has resigned as Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police is welcome and, in the eyes of The Red And The Blue, overdue.

The report tabled this morning by the Ombudsman into the release of “incomplete” crime statistics in the run-up to last year’s state election is damning and an indictment of the way Victoria Police has come to operate.

Coverage in the Melbourne press this morning has suggested that Overland was unaware the statistics in question were unqualified and invalidated. Yet anecdotal evidence at least suggests he had been warned.

And the buck had to stop somewhere: on such a sensitive matter of public safety, confidence in Police and full disclosure — tainted as this episode has been with allegations of political interference and manipulation — Mr Overland had little choice other than to shoulder responsibility for the debacle and quit.

There is little doubt Simon Overland is a very impressive individual; I for one was vocal in my endorsement of his appointment by the previous Labor government in early 2009. But initially through a perception there was too much continuity with the agenda pursued by the previous Chief Commissioner, and later as it became clear there were deep-rooted problems in the force, that endorsement has long been withdrawn.

The Red And The Blue wishes Mr Overland well on whatever new course he takes. His departure presents both an opportunity and a challenge.

An opportunity, in that his resignation provides a circuit-breaker, and allows the various inquiries into what has gone wrong inside Victoria Police the breathing space to run their course and deliver clear and unambiguous answers.

And a challenge: having approached this matter with diligence and in the face of some considerable discord, Messrs Baillieu and Ryan must now ensure that the process they have begun is seen through to conclusion.

I have said previously that there are serious issues affecting Victoria Police. In the interests of public safety, public confidence and good governance, it is critically important these are investigated thoroughly, identified in full, and resolved.

Today’s events are a constructive first step.