AN Australian Federal Police mentoring mission to Papua New Guinea spectacularly imploded amid allegations that officers caused the death of a prisoner, sold black-market guns, sexually assaulted one another, got drunk on duty and swam naked in an apartment pool.
The Australian has learnt of deep dysfunction in the PNG-based policing partnership program, led by the AFP, which has just been renewed for another two years at a cost of $48 million.
The revelations raise concerns about the effectiveness of the program and the pressures placed on AFP officers mentoring their PNG counterparts.
Fallout from the abortive mission to Lae, one of the region’s most dangerous cities, is still impacting on the AFP, with numerous Comcare claims, complaints to the Commonwealth Ombudsman, a legal action by then sergeant Brad Turner seeking $10m in damages, officers on lengthy sick leave, and numerous secret internal investigations.
The same mission had been the subject of allegations in 2015 made by an anonymous officer that the AFP had not done enough to investigate human rights violations by PNG police, including shooting unarmed suspects and failing to investigate serious crimes such as murders.
At the time, the AFP said it had reviewed the allegations but did not identify any matters requiring further action. PNG police said the claims were false.
But evidence has now emerged confirming that PNG police shot unarmed suspects and that they failed to investigate murders.
It also found that while the PNG police were allegedly conducting human rights violations, the AFP officers who were supposed to be their mentors were embroiled in an internal war that sparked the extreme allegations and made the operation almost unworkable.
The Australian does not suggest the AFP took part in the human rights violations.
Efforts to contact PNG police for comment yesterday were unsuccessful. The AFP confirmed it had investigated two AFP members who were implicated in a death in custody in PNG. The allegation was not substantiated, a spokesman said.
The spokesman also confirmed an AFP professional standards investigation had been undertaken into various issues involving member conduct in PNG in 2014. He said as a result the AFP took certain actions in regards to the outcomes of those matters.
The spokesman said the AFP received a number of allegations regarding code of conduct breaches by AFP members in PNG, which were investigated, and no further comment could be made.