|megpie71 (megpie71) wrote,|
@ 2015-08-31 20:24:00
What Border Force did Wrong on Friday.
1) They announced a major law-enforcement crackdown operation ahead of time in a public press release on their national press page. This is a daft move, because it makes it easier for law-breakers to avoid being caught (all they have to do is avoid the area where you're doing the crackdown).
These are the sort of law-enforcement basics they teach in comic books. Admittedly, the comic book version usually involves a sort of inversion of the idea - Captain Unbeatable and the Super Team announce very publicly they're going to be Out Of Town for $DURATION, and every single villain in the place starts planning operations to take advantage of this. Of course, it turns out the announcement was a fake, and the villains are foiled by Captain Unbeatable and the Super Team after all. Cue heroic group shot and celebration.
Clearly nobody in Border Force read the right comic books as a kid.
2) Not only did they do this, they apparently didn't contact any of the other organisations involved in the operation before they put up their press release announcing it.
Now, this is just plain bad manners. Normally, in a multi-agency matter of this type, there'd be a clear chain of command, and a clear understanding of who has the right to claim the credit and speak with the press first about this. Given this was a Victorian Police operation, it should have been the Victorian Police would would have issued the press release, and claimed the lion's share of the credit (at a presser on Monday morning, after everything was safely concluded, and the law-breakers had been safely charged and so on). It would have been bad enough if ABF had just jumped the gun with a press release on Sunday night immediately after everything was finished. But instead, their press release on Friday morning effectively scuttled the entire operation for everyone involved.
I'm pretty sure all the people in the media section of the Victorian police are livid, along with all the people who were organising Operation Fortitude, and the upper brass of the Victorian police force, because they've all been made to look like fools by Border Force. I'm also reasonably certain that the Victorian police, along with every other state police force in the country, have just marked down Border Force as the LAST federal government organisation they want to work with in future. It's going to take a lot of work on the part of Border Force to win back any trust from the various state police forces at all. This is an Own Goal of massive proportions, because without the co-operation of the various state police forces, the job of Border Force becomes much, much harder to complete.
I suspect any future collaboration between ABF and any of the state police forces will have extremely clear requirements that any communication with the press regarding operational matters has to be cleared by the media relations people of the police force in question before publication.
3) In their press release, they implied they would be carrying out illegal actions.
I'm sure I don't have to go into huge detail about why this is a stupid move and a wrong move, and a daft move. But then, since apparently the regional co-ordinator for two states of a federal government agency which is supposed to be about law-enforcement doesn't understand this, maybe not. So I'll go into huge detail.
To start with, if your agency is in a law enforcement role (which is my understanding of the role of Border Force - despite the paramilitary trappings and spiffy black shirts, their role primarily consists of enforcing Australian laws about who can enter the country, how long they can stay here, what they're allowed to bring in with them when they enter, and what they can take out with them when they leave) then breaking the law is not something you're supposed to permit. Especially when your side does it.
Secondly, if you permit your side to break the law in pursuit of charges, it does make the subsequent court cases rather short and unsatisfying. It means your evidence might be thrown out due to being obtained illegally (which means you can't make the case stick). It means your suspect may be able to allege improper treatment (which means a jury is more likely to side with the defendant). It means your suspect may be able to get the charges dropped altogether, because you're charging them with the wrong thing (and, once more, you can't make the case stick). These sorts of things tend to make prosecuting attorneys just a little tetchy.
Thirdly, it also renders your team liable to action at law. No Australian agency is above the law - it's part of the way things are constructed. If you do things which are illegal, your agency might be sued and wind up having to pay out large sums of money from its budget in compensation. Which means you will have less money available for things like spiffy black shirts and gold braid on your uniforms.
Hopefully this has clarified why implying (or rather, flat out saying) that you will be doing things which are illegal in a press release is a Bad Thing.
4) When they tried to backtrack it was by saying people has "misread" the press release, which was in pretty clear English, and rather hard to misinterpret.
It is very hard to interpret "we're going to be stopping everyone who crosses our path" as "we're not going to be stopping anyone because we don't have the legal power to do this". Telling the press they made a mistake tends to lead to them doing sneaky underhanded things like sharing screenshots of the original press release, or sharing links to the original press release, so the public can make their own judgement of what's been said and implied there.
5) When they attempted to further backtrack, it was by implying the press release had been authorised "at a low level" - and wasn't approved by anyone further up.
Even if this had been the case, it would still have been a massive cock-up, for at least the reasons listed above. As it stands, however, the press release was seen by at least one member of the Minister's staff, who either didn't recognise it for what it was - in which case they're incompetent and ought to be at the very least demoted to their point of competence; or didn't read the whole thing through - in which case they're still incompetent, and again, should be demoted to their point of competence (or set up with a royal commission to administer); or saw it, agreed with it, and didn't think any further of it - in which case they're not only criminally incompetent at their job of keeping the Minister out of the cacky, but politically clueless to the point of extreme naivety, because the blasted thing was a ticking political time bomb (of the "implying totalitarian control" variety) and should never have been allowed to go to press.
Applying Hanlon's razor, and not attributing to malice what could be explained by stupidity, I can only presume one of Minister Dutton's staff was having a very off day indeed when that particular email crossed their path. (The alternative assumption is at least one of Minister Dutton's staff isn't particularly fond of their boss).
Basically, this whole thing was a cock-up from go to whoa. Here's my best guess as to how things were supposed to happen:
Operation Fortitude was a reasonably regular sort of operation run by the Victorian police in co-operation with the various public transport bodies and the Taxi board, targeting things like low-level anti-social behaviour, fare evasion, and workplace relations compliance, with visa compliance tacked on as a sort of cherry on the top. Basically, the local police would have, without fanfare, stepped up their presence in the Melbourne city centre for a weekend, and anyone who was arrested would have had their details checked for outstanding warrants, fare evasion notices, and probably had their visa status checked if it turned out they couldn't prove citizenship. A few cafes would have been checked to make sure the staff were all getting paid their correct wages, and the taxi board would have supplied a list of registered drivers to the ABF to check everyone was legal to work here. On the Monday morning, around 10am after all the journos had woken up and had their coffee and were starting to collect the news for the day, there would have been a presser held at Victorian police headquarters, where the senior officer in charge for the Victorian police would have announced the (now-complete) Operation Fortitude, explained what it was all about, and reported their successes (which they would have been certain of either way - if they arrest anyone, that's a success because it proves they're doing their jobs right; if they don't arrest anyone, that's also a success, because it's proving people are following the law, which also proves they're doing their jobs right!).
Note all the credit here goes to the Victorian police, even though I'm sure they would have mentioned all the other agencies involved, including the Australian Border Force.
Instead, the whole thing had to be called off, Border Force wound up with large amounts of egg on their collective face, as did Minister Dutton, Prime Minister Abbott, and the Leader of the Opposition, and the people who were and probably still are breaking the law got to carry on doing so for at least another few months.
This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/59862.htm