NSW top cop Karen Webb admits to media blunders and approaching new chief spinner Steve Jackson

REMY VARGA
The Nightly
3 Min Read
NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb has admitted mistakes have been made.
NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb has admitted mistakes have been made. Credit: AAP

NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb has admitted mistakes have been made and her media performance could improve when questioned about the controversial appointment of a former Seven producer as her chief spinner.

Ms Webb told 2GB on Monday that security vetting checks on Steve Jackson remained ongoing amid calls the appointment should be referred to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption.

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The commissioner said the security clearance was a “baseline check” and confirmed she approached Jackson, a former producer on Seven’s Spotlight, on the advice of NSW Police Minister Yasmin Catley’s chief-of-staff Ross Neilson.

“I asked the minister’s chief of staff [Neilson], who’s been around in this game for a long time,” she said.

“Ross used to run the police media unit many years ago, so he was an ideal person to ask.

“He gave me a couple of suggestions and I followed up with Steve (and) interviewed Steve.

“Then we went through a process where we compared his skills against what we were looking for, and so that’s where we’ve landed and how we’ve landed there.”

Neilson is an old acquaintance of Jackson, while it has emerged another member of her team is engaged to a producer hired by Jackson last year.

Shadow police spokesman Paul Toole has called for Jackson’s appointment to be referred to the NSW ICAC.

Photographs of Jackson and a woman in a state of undress have emerged since the appointment as well as reports the former Spotlight producer helped former Seven employee Taylor Auerbach get a Thai masseuse to reverse a $2000 transaction on a company credit card.

Auerbach reportedly booked the massage with former Coalition staffer Lehrmann, who has denied getting a massage, when he was negotiating with the producer for an exclusive interview.

Jackson was appointed to the top job after Ms Webb fired her third senior spinner Liz Deegan on March 13 following widespread criticism of her performance after the alleged murders of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies.

The Nightly is not suggesting Jackson, a 20-year media veteran, has acted corruptly or that his appointment is in anyway corrupt.

Ms Webb also conceded she had made mistakes and could improve her media performance.

“I can improve, and if you look at some of my predecessors, most cops join the police to be in the police, not to be in the media,” she told 2GB.

“So certainly I can do better and I will, thanks for the opportunity … Mistakes are made, I need to own it on behalf of the organisation.

“That often puts me at odds with other things in the organisation.”

Ms Webb was criticised for taking days to hold a media conference on the shock deaths of Mr Baird, a television presenter, and his partner Mr Davies, a Qantas attendant.

When Ms Webb did face reporters, her deputy, Dave Hudson, did most of the talking.

Ms Webb was also criticised for describing the alleged murders as “a crime of passion” and making reference to pop singer Taylor Swift when defending her handling of the case. “There will always be haters. Haters like to hate. Isn’t that what Taylor says?” Ms Webb told Sunrise.

Ms Webb later backtracked and blamed her comments on “Taylor fever”.

The top cop also faced allegations police tried to cover up the death of Clare Nowland at an aged-care home in Cooma after police took 36 hours to disclose a taser had been discharged at the 95-year-old grandmother.

Incumbent public affairs executive director Grant Williams left soon after Ms Webb took the top job in February 2022 while former television producer Alex Hodgkinson held the role for less than a year.

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