NEARLY 1000 police officers were used on just one morning at the height of last year's Grocon dispute - about one in every 13 sworn police in Victoria.
The massive response is underlined by police data - released under freedom of information - that reveals 3067 police shifts were worked in just two weeks at Grocon's Myer Emporium site in central Melbourne in August and September.
Victoria Police refuses to disclose how much the dispute cost it - and taxpayers - as a legal case against the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union is under way. But it defended its response as necessary to ensure safety.
CFMEU state secretary John Setka denied the union was to blame for the costs and said the number of police used was an ''absolute disgrace''.
He said it was not the fault of police, it was a result of Premier Ted Baillieu backing Grocon chief executive Daniel Grollo. ''It's just one little rich boy helping another little rich boy.''
The data reveals that on August 31 - 10 days into the bitter dispute - 967 police were used in an early morning push to seize control of the site from protesters.
The 3am push encountered little opposition. Police took control of the site and erected a fence that blocked two lanes of Lonsdale Street. The move allowed about 30 Grocon workers to return to work, about one-third of the usual number.
A week before the push, Mr Grollo had formally asked Chief Commissioner Ken Lay for help. In a letter dated August 24, released under FOI, Mr Grollo said he made the request reluctantly. ''Our employees are keen to return to work but are presently unable to do so - from our perspective, the timing of any attempt to return will be determined solely with their safety in mind,'' he wrote.
Mr Grollo also said there were long-term issues for Victorian businesses arising from the blockade. ''There are of course longer-term multi-site issues relating to companies seeking to go about their lawful business in the face of unlawful activity in the state of Victoria,'' he wrote.
Mr Grollo said his request was made with ''reluctance'' and acknowledged that it ''poses a burden on your (police) time and resources''.
In the fallout from the dispute, the CFMEU is facing a $10.5 million damages claim from Grocon and is also being pursued by the federal building industry watchdog for fines and damages.
Mr Setka, who was union assistant secretary at the time, played a central role in the dispute and has been accused in court documents of having used phrases to Grocon employees such as ''you're a f---ing dog'', ''scab'' and ''rats''.
Mr Setka said police officers had told the union they did not want to be there, had been pulled from country stations and were upset at ''being used as political pawns''.
''I don't blame the Victorian police for a moment, they're sent where they're ordered to go,'' he said.
The dispute remains unresolved and Mr Setka said the union was planning further action. ''To be honest, it's a bit like a military operation,'' he said.
Police Association secretary Greg Davies said the costs from the dispute would be significant but said the scale of the police response had helped ''dampen the enthusiasms of anyone for any sort of altercation''.
''It is a big number [of police] but then we had a reasonably recent experience, the World Economic Forum at Crown casino, where we were under-resourced,'' he said. ''If it's all going to turn to porridge, it's the police that will bear the brunt of it.''
A police spokeswoman said the large response was justified. The FOI data shows a heavy police presence on other days, with 763 police used on September 4 and nearly 700 the following day.
''A large number of police resources were used to maintain a presence at the site during this period. We believe the number of police deployed was sufficient and necessary to ensure the safety of the public, our people, Grocon employees and any other person involved in the dispute,'' the spokeswoman said.