Police officers in Australia have been accused of falsely registering as non-binary as part of a scheme to claim a higher clothing allowance from their department.
At least 17 officers from the Victoria Police have been interviewed in the force’s investigation of the alleged scheme, according to the Herald Sun, which was first brought to light on social media in June.
Victoria officers identifying as female are given a clothing allowance $1,300 higher than those identifying as male — and those who identify as non-binary or gender neutral receive the same stipend, a loophole investigators believe male officers are exploiting to pocket more money.
“Conduct of this sort, if validated, is not acceptable and falls far short of the standards I expect from Victoria Police members and the standards of behavior outlined in our code of conduct and Victoria Police values,” Chief Commissioner Shane Patton wrote to Victoria Police employees after the allegations first broke.
Participation in the scheme seemed to spread like wildfire — at one point, one department employee per day was newly identifying as non-binary.
By June, more than 130 employees identified as non-binary — up from just 32 the prior year.
Currently, there are 81 employees identifying as non-binary.
A search warrant was carried out in July as part of the investigation, according to the Guardian.
Patton said gender self-identification was made available within the department three years ago to foster an inclusive environment.
Officials are floating plans to require legal declarations of staffers’ status in an effort to curb the scheme.
It remains unclear how many officers are accused of participating and what will become of them if they are found guilty.