ASIO, security breach, Chris Bergroth, crime, national security, oops,
EXCLUSIVE Ronan O’Connell, Luke Eliot and Gabrielle Knowles, The West Australian
He’s the former boy scout who is accused of making a mockery of security at key police buildings across Perth.
His Facebook page lists his employer as the nation’s top secret spy organisation ASIO and says he completed studies in counter-terrorism and state security at the prestigious Australian Defence Force Academy.
And at the age of 18, Chris Bergroth is facing more than 30 charges related to a month allegedly filled with visits to the Perth Watch House, Curtin House and police headquarters.
It is a case that has senior police red-faced, veteran officers scratching their heads and the public legitimately concerned over the ease with which the Seville Grove teenager got access to critical infrastructure.
Mr Bergroth told _The West Australian _ yesterday that he was “very, very sorry” for his actions, which he described as the “biggest mistake of my life”.
As he sat in a bedroom of his mother’s home, the softly spoken teenager fidgeted nervously while he explained himself. He said he had been fascinated by policing since he was a child and had dreamt of becoming a police officer.
A four-week work experience stint with the Armadale police two years ago had cemented his plans to apply to join the force, something he had intended to do this year.
“I love helping people,” Mr Bergroth said. “You see police out and about doing an awesome job helping people in so many different ways. It makes me feel good helping people out and I wanted that to be my job.”
He conceded that his keen interest in becoming an officer had morphed into obsession and clouded his judgment. Early last month he had gone to the imposing police headquarters in East Perth dressed in business attire and asked at security if he could go inside to use the bathroom.
When he was waved through, Mr Bergroth claimed he walked past the bathroom, which he did not notice, and then spotted two large bins marked “police clothes”.
He dug through the pile of official police attire and selected a full uniform, along with a jacket, jumper and reflective vest, which all bore WA Police markings. He then strolled out a side door, rather than returning past the security booth and walked through the carpark and through a security gate as a police vehicle was leaving.
Mr Bergroth admitted he then used the clothing he had stolen to help him repeatedly get access to secure facilities.
To make himself look more convincing, he had paired the police uniform with items he had previously bought over the internet – a police-style utility belt, a gun holster and a Taser holster.
Police allege he was also in possession of a baton and a stolen security swipe card. Mr Bergroth allegedly used his outfit to scam his way into the Perth Watch House six times and Curtin House twice.
He claimed he had spent “maybe two minutes” inside the secure section of Curtin House – home to specialist investigative units such as the homicide, drug and anti-bikie squads – after being allowed in when he asked to get some plastic gloves. He took the gloves and left.
He had spent longer inside the Perth Watch House, where he allegedly visited a close friend – a 25-year-old custody officer who has been stood down from duty while internal affairs detectives investigate the links between the men.
He said he had mixed freely with police officers and staff during those visits and had not been caught out until last Friday when a custody officer became suspicious and questioned him over his reasons for being at the secure facility.
Mr Bergroth said he did not want to comment on his friend and whether he had played a role in the security breaches. He had already damaged his own future and traumatised his loved ones.
“I feel like an idiot,” Mr Bergroth said. “I know what I did was wrong. I have disgraced police, I have disgraced my family and I have lied to my friends and family. This is going to haunt me for years to come and my family, too. I just wanted my family and friends to be proud of me. It was crazy I know but at the time it didn’t seem like a big deal.
“I never meant to cause any harm. I never messed with computers or tried to get guns or anything. I was just messing about. I didn’t even think how serious it was at the time.”
_The West Australian _understands the custody officer who worked at the watch house and knew Mr Bergroth through the boy scouts suggested the teenager come for a tour.
Within days he allegedly made his first visit to the watch house, where alleged criminals are processed after being arrested.
Internal investigators are scanning more than a month’s footage from dozens of security cameras at the watch house, police headquarters and Curtin House to determine when and for how long Mr Bergroth was in the police premises.
On May 30, Mr Bergroth allegedly visited his friend at the watch house. He was allowed into a secure parking area and, while his mate ducked off for a moment, noticed an unlocked police car. It is alleged he took a security swipe card from the car and used it to enter the watch house the next night.
A senior officer prefaced a news conference on the matter by Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan yesterday with a saying known in law enforcement and security circles. “We have to be lucky every time, they have to be lucky only once,” the inspector said.
But to balance that, an insight from the other side of the thin blue line – a quote from a senior bikie: “If you want something bad enough, you can always find a way to get it.”