By Luke Voogt
Victoria Police have refused to specify when Geelong’s top cop will return from his three-month absence following revelations of a dispute in the force’s command.
A spokesperson yesterday declined to comment on reports Geelong Superintendent Craig Gillard had been entangled in a row with Assistant Commissioner Tess Walsh and another senior officer.
“Superintendent Gillard remains on sick leave at this point in time,” the spokesperson said.
“We will not speculate on when he might return. We are however committed to resolving this as quickly as possible.
“Victoria Police is working hard to resolve a workplace dispute involving three members of the management team in the western region of Victoria, which encompasses Geelong.”
The spokesperson declined to comment on the nature of the dispute.
According to reports Superintendent Gillard was under pressure last year to pull then Surf Coast Shire Mayor and senior police officer Brian McKiterick into line over the councillor’s opposition to flying the rainbow flag at the shire’s offices.
Supt Gillard’s reluctance to do so reportedly led to the row with the Assistant Commisioner.
Member for Western Victoria Simon Ramsay slammed Victorian Police Minister Lisa Neville for the Geelong police command “crisis” which had arisen from the dispute.
“The Member for Bellarine and Police Minister is overseeing this,” he said. “This is her job. This is her patch.“
Mr Ramsay was concerned Ms Neville might have been involved in pressuring “a police member, to back-off to a position she preferred.“
“It would seem her fingerprints are also over moves last year to influence the debate in the Surf Coast Shire over the flying of the rainbow flag at the council offices.”
But Ms Neville categorically rejected Mr Ramsay’s “smear“ as “absolutely false.“
“If he continues to assert that I have improperly involved myself in disciplinary or operational matters at Victoria Police then he’s verging on defamation.”
The Victoria Police Act prohibited Ms Neville from giving direction on operational or disciplinary matters, she pointed out.
“I have asked Victoria Police Command to resolve the matter as quickly as possible in the best interests of the Geelong community,” she said.
“They have indicated to me that they are working towards that outcome.”