THE bespectacled lawyer, a hard-working Catholic family man, looks an unlikely enforcer. But that's what they're calling him. Yet until 1991, when he took a pay cut to accept the A$149,992 a year job of Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions, the state's most powerful law officer, 50-year-old Bernard Bongiorno QC kept a fairly low profile. In recent months that had begun to change. His relationship with the state's 10,000-strong police force became strained, with disagreements over some charges he had dropped - sex charges against a local bishop, for instance - and some he hadn't, such as a manslaughter charge that was thrown out of court. But last week Mr Bongiorno's low profile disappeared forever when he laid murder charges against eight serving and two former members of the Victoria police over the shooting of two young men by police. The two, Gary Abdallah and Graeme Jensen, both had a police record, were both shot by police and both had families who demanded inquiries into their deaths. By July, 1989, Graeme Jensen and Gary Abdallah had become two of seven people whom Victoria police had shot dead since the previous year. The State Coroner, Hal Hallenstein, announced an investigation, to comprise the inquests into those seven shootings plus a re-examination of 14 previous inquests into police shootings since 1983. It was to run for almost two years and cost more than A$10 million, its transcript filling 33,500 pages. Mr Hallenstein, who had delayed his findings several times, was to announce them in mid-December. But last Tuesday, in a move that shocked the Police Commissioner, Neil Comrise, that is believed to have shocked Mr Hallenstein and, most of all, stunned the police officers involved, Mr Bongiorno decided not to wait for Mr Hallenstein's report. It was a move that now throws the future of that report into doubt. It cannot produce findings which may prejudice criminal charges and, by the time the charges are heard, may be irrelevant. Mr Bongiorno said he was laying the charges after an examination by his office of the evidence to Mr Hallenstein's inquiry. Six serving policemen and two former officers, all members of the armed robbery squad when Graeme Jensen died and all allegedly involved in the operation during which he died, were charged with his murder. Five were also charged with impeding the investigation into his death, as was another officer not charged with murder. The other two were charged with murdering Gary Abdallah. For the officers, aged 29 to 47, all now stood down on full pay, it was the culmination of what their barrister has called five years of allegations aired in the press. And because they were brought before the Supreme Court and not given the chance of a magistrate's court committal hearing to establish the strength of the evidence, a gross violation of a fundamental requirement of justice. But for the families of Graeme Jensen and Gary Abdallah it was a victory, greeted with tears of relief. Last week, the officers appeared in a courtroom so packed that journalists had to sit in the jury box. That day in court was the first small round in what is shaping up as a battle of the Australian legal big guns. ALREADY there's a row over who will foot the bill, estimated at at least A$1.5 million, for the officers' defence. The Police Association and the Opposition say the Government should pay, but it is considering using the police budget - a move the Opposition says would cut police services. Representing Mr Bongiorno were Mr John Winneke QC, a former royal commissioner who represented Lindy Chamberlain as she insisted that a dingo took her baby, and Doug Meagher, QC, former special counsel to a government corruption inquiry. For the police, eminent criminal lawyer and noted civil libertarian Robert Richter, QC, leads the defence in what is tipped to be Victoria's most complex and controversial criminal trial. He told the court his clients, all of whom pleaded not guilty, had been denied their right to a committal hearing. He would be seeking a stay of proceedings, alleging abuse of process. The police officers were released on bail, their case adjourned until October. But in the next few days Mr Bongiorno and his staff will compile a list of police witnesses, some of them perhaps their close friends, whom the accused men will be prevented from dealing with until their trial. But it now seems that is not the only court action these police officers may face: members of the two dead men's families are considering taking civil action, with a barrister briefed to seek compensation for Gary Abdallah's son Michael, now 10. Last year, relatives of police shooting victims published a book You Deserve to Know The Truth . The three women, who had been meeting in a support group, expressed not only their pain of loss, but at the way they had been dealt with by the police, the media and the legal system. In the book one says of the police, ''we are told that we can't fight for a dead person. But you behave like you're judge and jury for the dead.'' Now they say it will be for a real judge and jury to decide.