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100 police face race hate probe

As many as 100 Australian police were being investigated today over racist emails circulated on a police email system, a scandal that cost the life of one officer.

The police ethical standards department found multiple emails that were too shocking to be released, Chief Commissioner Simon Overland said.

He would not confirm the subject matter of the emails but said some were "extremely serious, some are offensive".

"If the Victorian public were aware of the nature of that material, I believe that it would cause significant concern," Overland told Australian radio.

Mr Overland said those who introduced the material into the police email system would be fired.

He also confirmed a police officer who committed suicide earlier this week was one of two given notification their jobs were on the line.

Tony Vangorp (47) tendered his resignation on Friday, then returned to the police station on Monday night and shot himself.

"A tragic event has happened," Mr Overland said. "It's deeply, deeply regrettable and we need to learn the lessons, but it doesn't mean that I can or should avoid my responsibilities."

The investigation centred on a graphic image of a non- Caucasian man being tortured. It said experts tracking the emails found that several police added further racist comments before forwarding the image.

The report said those who forwarded it would be cautioned, while those who added comments faced more serious discipline.

Mr Overland acknowledged a small minority of police officers were racist, in response to a report that said police suffered from a "culture of racism".