Five-year corruption nightmare over for Mackay cop
"THE nightmare is over" for Acting Sergeant Christopher O'Keefe, who after five years of battling corruption claims has beaten all his charges and disciplinary actions.
The 34-year-old said he knew the day would come when "common sense would prevail" and people knew he did nothing wrong on July 28, 2012.
That day the former mine worker and grocery manager was working as a Northern Beaches police officer when driver Nathan Choy hit a parked car and fled the scene.
"What happened after that crash? The nightmare started," he said.
The Queensland Police Service alleged that then-Constable O'Keefe did the driver a favour by not charging him with more serious offences, including careless driving, having only charged him with unlicensed driving.
As the Mercury reported in 2015, Const O'Keefe claimed he was not aware that the incident was a hit and run and that Sgt Peter Cowan had told him the drivers had exchanged details.
But an audio recording revealed a different story; Sgt Cowan was heard in the recording telling Const O'Keefe that it was a hit and run, court documents revealed. The documents also said Mr O'Keefe had not tested Mr Choy for alcohol or drugs.
After an internal investigation he was suspended without salary and charged with misconduct in public office.
Act Sgt O'Keefe said he remembered watching a morning show and on the coffee table in front of the hosts was a picture of his face on the front page of a Sydney newspaper.
The charges that landed him on the front pages from Innisfail to Hobart were dropped in 2015, but it took until July 2016 before he was back in blue.
"I was out on suspension. Stood down for 12 months, then charged so I attended all court appearances and then the charge was withdrawn. I was then suspended without pay," he said. "Then I was out for a further 12 months while they decided what they were going to do with me and then re-instated in 2016.
"As part of the plan for me to come back, I had to go through the discipline process."
That process ended with him being docked some of his pay for being untruthful.
He appealed that and on September 5, Member Steven Holzberger from Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal sided with Act Sgt O'Keefe and removed the condition of his wage being docked. He found that there was no evidence that he was untruthful.
A Queensland Police spokesperson said the service considered the matter finalised.
"I knew from 2012 when this started that this day would come where common sense would prevail," Act Sgt O'Keefe said. "I am a little numb actually, it has been long long journey."
But he said the people around him kept him strong. "I never thought about throwing my career in the police force away," he said. "There were some tough times but the support that I had, mainly (officer) Kelsie Henderson and my old station boss, they are the two that really stuck by me."
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More than 12 months after he returned to work he has been keeping his head down and working hard. "It is great to be back... the support from our district office has been great and the opportunities I have been given has been excellent," he said.
There is an ongoing civil suit between QPS and the police officer who investigated his conduct.