ADELAIDE, Australia -- A variation on the gentleman burglar has hit this placid state capital.
It is the policeman burglar.
For in investigating a gang robbing shops and offices, police have nailed a network of their own.
"This [is] the latest indignity," fumed the local daily, the Advertiser. "A crime network of uniformed, on-duty police officers, pinching members of the public one minute, and anything they can get their hands on the next."
Friday Officer Glen Carl Hunt, 31, pleaded guilty to robbery and received, after agreeing to testify against the others, a suspended sentence. He said he had been enticed by his partner, former senior constable Ivan Lloyd Phillips, 32. Phillips is already serving a three-year sentence for the burglaries.
A third officer is awaiting trial.
As many as ten of the corrupt constables had been breaking into Adelaide shops and offices for several years, Police Commissioner David Hunt told reporters.
He said that a special 12-officer cleanup unit formed of police, the attorney general's department and the National Crime Authority would focus on the gang of rogue officers in an investigation dubbed Operation Hygiene.
The first inkling of the activities of this uniformed underworld came from another officer who, Commissioner Hunt said, "discovered something was wrong or amiss." Although he denied that corruption was "institutionalized," his admissions further tarnish a police image that was once one of the best in Australia but which recently has included allegations of corruption and involvement in drug-related offenses.
The Advertiser said that at least five National Crime Authority investigations of corruption had been targeted on Adelaide police. After one of them, the then-head of the drug squad, Detective Chief Inspector Barry Moyse, was jailed for 21 years on drugs charges.
Reportedly, press leaks forced police to publicly acknowledge the burglary ring.