They’re supposed to set the standard for other road users to follow – but in an incident that calls into question the effectiveness of checks within the NSW Police Force, it has been reported that a police officer who was caught drink-driving has been unlicensed for over 20 years.
46-year-old Detective Sergeant Andrew John Clarke, who is attached to the Penrith Local Area Command, was pulled over for a random breath test while travelling along Hawkesbury Valley Way at around 10pm on the 10th of July this year.
He blew a reading of .170 – more than three times the legal limit – and was arrested and brought back to Windsor Police Station, where he was charged with high-range drink driving (PCA) and issued a future court attendance notice to appear at Downing Centre Local Court on the 17th of September.
But the officer’s misconduct and impropriety didn’t stop there – a subsequent investigation revealed that he has never held a driver licence, despite NSW Police Force protocols requiring all members to hold a current licence.
Incident Calls Police Protocols Into Question
NSW Police are unsure about how the officer evaded detection for so long.
Those wishing to apply to become officers in the NSW Police Force are required to hold a green provisional driver licence at the very least.
The current police website states that those who do not meet this requirement ‘will not be eligible to submit an application.’
In addition, the Police Commissioner has the power to obtain information from the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) relating to licences at anytime, including when deciding whether to appoint a person as a member of the Police Force and when determining a promotion.
Furthermore, current police protocols require officers to present their accoutrement and current NSW driver licence to their superiors once every three months.
But despite all of this, the officer managed to achieve several promotions while working for the Police Force for more than 20 years.
Incredibly, he was named last year as a finalist in the 2014 Penrith Police Officer of the Year Awards.
Breach of Code of Conduct and Ethics
Detective Sergeant Clarke’s conduct potentially breaches several parts of the NSW Police Code of Conduct and Ethics.
For example, point 1 of the Code states that, ‘an employee of the NSW Police Force must behave honestly and in a way that upholds the values and good reputation of the NSW Police Force whether on or off duty.’
And point 6 requires that, ‘an employee of the NSW Police Force must comply with the law whether on or off duty.’
So, What Next?
An investigation has reportedly been launched by the Professional Standards Command to determine how the matter went undetected for so long.
The Professional Standards Command (PSC) is a branch of the NSW Police Force which ‘has responsibility for setting standards for performance, conduct and integrity within NSW Police.’
The PSC is often called upon to investigate allegations of criminal activity and corruption involving police officers, and to develop appropriate protocols in response.
The body may formulate better protocols and policies with a view to strengthening professional standards within the force, and can refer matters to the Police Integrity Commission or the NSW Ombudsman for further investigation.
Meanwhile, Detective Clarke awaits his court date on the 17th of September. If found guilty, he faces a criminal conviction and maximum penalty of $2,200 for driving while never licensed, as well as a further conviction, a maximum penalty of 18 months imprisonment and/or a fine of $3,300 for high range drink driving.
Despite the allegations against him, Officer Clarke ‘remains at work on restricted duties pending the outcome of the court matters and an internal investigation.’