Commissioner Atkinson retires


Next Wednesday will see a major turning point for Queensland’s Police Service.

After 44 years of service and Commissioner for more than a decade, Bob Atkinson will officially retire.

In this profile he speaks about the highs and lows of his career.

Lauren Marer reports.

TRANSCRIPT

Bob Atkinson has come along way from his first pair of handcuffs and wooded baton.

In what he describes as a very different time.

Bob Atkinson, Police Commissioner: “We were sent to training stations and it was a strange system, but it was one where after a while, it could be any period of time the department had decided you’d had enough training and you were ready to be assigned to a permanent station.”

His career began in Hemmant in 1968, after some initial uncertainty, the 19-year-old realised his new role was his perfect match.

Bob Atkinson, Police Commissioner: “Being a police officer was a fit for me and something I wanted to do for the rest of my working career and I hoped I would obviously be a fit for it.”

And that it was.

He moved quickly up the ranks.

Gaining a particular interest in plain clothes detective work.

After the Fitzgerald Inquiry exposed corruption and ill practice, he was an integral part in changing the way the force operated.

Something still high on his agenda.

Bob Atkinson, Police Commissioner: “You do it through eternal vigilance, you do it through never, ever relaxing and thinking everything’s OK, you do it through an ethos and mind set of continuous improvement and you do it through having a culture where wrong doing isn’t just reported by people outside the organisation but reported by people inside the organisation as well.”

Mr Atkinson landed the top job in 2000.

Fronting the police community for over a decade.

The commissioner is particularly proud of his commitment to road safety during his watch.

Bob Atkinson, Police Commissioner: “It’s much safer on the roads, it’s extraordinary really, people probably wouldn’t accept that, but it’s true.”

He defends speed cameras claiming they aren’t just revenue raisers.

And have significantly decreased road tolls.

But his reputation bares some scars.

Atkinson was highly criticised after an Aboriginal man died in police custody on Palm Island back in 2004.

The subsequent investigation attracted the wrath of CMC chairman at the time, Martin Moynihan.

Mr Atkinson says he would have dealt with it differently if he had his time again.

But never considered standing down from his position.

Bob Atkinson, Police Commissioner: “Had I ever believed at any time in the last 12 years that I should have resigned, I would have done so immediately.”

As his career comes to an end, Bob Atkinson will hand over his baton and badge.

His deputy Ian Stewart will take the reigns, with the blessing of the outgoing Commissioner.

Bob Atkinson, Police Commissioner: “Everyone does this job in their own way, but I have the highest regard for Ian Stewart.”

He is confident the police service is in good hands.

Bob Atkinson, Police Commissioner: “The organisation will do well and move forward under his command.”

Although safety has improved in some areas, there are some concerns for the man in charge.

Bob Atkinson, Police Commissioner: “Some areas have started to go back up, car theft is the worst, and car theft has risen quite significantly.”

He says there is a problem with crime on the Gold Coast, but it’s currently under control.

Over the past 12 years the Commissioner has been called upon for many official duties, but this QPS Graduation, could well be one of his last, before the change of guard next week.

Any one of these 116 graduates could have been Bob Atkinson back in 1968.

The Commissioner will take an early mark on Wednesday, leaving the police headquarters as Commissioner for the last time.

As the sun sets on a 44-year-career, the out going Commissioner is looking forward to well deserved time of his own.

Lauren Marer, QUT News.