By SCOTT INGLIS
Two detectives who led an inquiry into police corruption which ended with the accused walking free have been paid $50,000 between them after claiming they were made scapegoats.
The pair filed personal grievance claims for at least twice that against the Police Commissioner alleging lack of support from superiors after their inquiry was heavily attacked by an investigating judge.
The Weekend Herald has also learned the two - Detective Chief Inspector Rex Miller, now retired, and Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Whitehead - also complained that an incorrect version of the judge's report was leaked from police national headquarters before the proper one was released.
The pair led an inquiry which resulted in five Gisborne policemen being charged in connection with supplying cannabis to the Mongrel Mob.
The inquiry, dubbed Operation Vine, ultimately cost more than $1 million and soaked up 8547 man hours. It began early in 1997 but by the year's end all 32 charges against the accused officers had been dismissed.
The cleared officers were Detective Sergeant Barry Woon, Constables Greg Lexmond, Brent Adamson and Regan Horsfall and former officer Dave Neilson.
The commissioner at the time, Peter Doone, and the Police Complaints Authority brought in Judge Russell Callander to review the inquiry.
In hard-hitting findings released late in 1998, the judge found the inquiry fatally flawed, with the investigators failing to interview numerous witnesses, prejudging the five guilty, and influencing the assessment of evidence.
The investigators had also accepted the testimony of "men of appalling character," he said, and their case fell over because their evidence lacked credibility.
Mr Doone did not agree with the judge's report and neither Mr Miller nor any of his team faced disciplinary action.
But Weekend Herald sources say Hamilton-based Mr Miller, a decorated 37-year veteran who retired the following year, and Detective Senior Sergeant Whitehead, his deputy, felt they had been unfairly blamed because they did not make the final decision to lay charges. They felt that their careers had been tarnished.
They lodged the personal grievance case and also sought a public apology in the police magazine ten-one.
Commissioner Rob Robinson refused to publish an apology.
Mr Miller and Detective Senior Sergeant Whitehead initially had support from the Police Association and the Police Managers Guild, but both unions later backed off.
The sources told the Weekend Herald that the officers had simply amassed evidence and presented it to crown prosecutors and higher police authorities, who made the final decision to charge.
Both men are understood to have spent thousands hiring lawyers to fight their case.
Late last month, police told the Herald that the force was still facing 28 staff-related lawsuits worth just under $320,000.
Mr Miller refused to comment and Detective Senior Sergeant Whitehead could not be contacted.
The Police Commissioner's office, in a statement, confirmed that it had made a settlement in relation to both men but refused to say more, citing confidentiality.
By SCOTT INGLIS