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Case Study 1 - Illicit drug use

"Private" illicit drug use by public sector employees risks bringing government officials – and the information they may hold – into the orbit and influence of organised crime groups.

In February 2014, an administrative employee of the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) resigned immediately after being selected for a random drug test. The Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) investigated the circumstances of the resignation.

At a private hearing before the Integrity Commissioner, the employee admitted to a history of illicit drug taking, both prior to and during employment with the ACC. It follows that the employee had withheld that information during comprehensive security screening interviews.

In this instance, ACLEI's investigation found no indication that the employee had disclosed ACC information outside the agency.

The presence of an active detection measure (in this case, drug testing) overcame the inherent shortcoming of trust-based vetting procedures.

Integrity Risk

  • One known source of potential compromise of law enforcement agencies and the integrity of their staff members is the "private" use of illicit drugs, which—irrespective of their immediate source—are often linked to the activities of organised crime groups. If the illicit use of drugs were to become known by a criminal group, the potential arises for the officer to be manipulated, and agency systems and information to be compromised.
  • Instances of illicit use of drugs—particularly within an agency with law enforcement functions—also expose issues relating to misalignment of values between an agency and its staff member, and create the potential for misplaced loyalty to arise. These are factors that may cause a person to disregard a duty owed to his or her employer in favour of a personal gain or perceived benefit.
  • Personal drug use also illustrates the problem of the "enduring lie"—whereby a prospective employee may lie about past or current drug use, in order to secure and retain employment. This problem—at best—means that an employer is never properly informed of the risk factors and vulnerabilities it may need to manage (noting that a history of some drug use, when declared, does not always result in an employment offer being withheld).
  • An emerging risk, now seen in a number of ACLEI investigations, is that "back office" staff—administrative and other support staff who have access to sensitive information—may be as vulnerable to compromise as operational staff. In addition, since they may be less prepared to respond to improper approaches, it is arguable that these support staff may be more exposed to risk than previously considered to be the case.

Related documents:

  • Report 03/2014—A joint investigation into the conduct of an Australian Crime Commission employee who avoided a drug test Word Document PDF Document