An event to farewell Dr Karl O’Callaghan, the WA Police Commissioner was held on Friday 11 August 2017. 

Dr O’Callaghan’s 44-year policing career including 13 years as WA Police Commissioner was celebrated during this moving march-off ceremony at the Joondalup Police Academy.

He maintained a strong public voice, known for his advocacy on a range of social issues impacting policing and the community. His annual morning tea with the Muslim community Imams and Leaders in WA have grown as an important event on the WA Police calendar

In his final years Dr O’Callaghan implemented the Frontline 2020 program, which included a restructuring of the agency to better meet rising demands for policing services with limited resources. He is credited with bringing the agency into the 21st century and tactically preparing police for dealing with contemporary operational challenges.

Dr Karl O’Callaghan, former WA Police Commissioner.

Starting as a 17-year-old cadet in 1973, Dr O’Callaghan graduated as Dux of Course from the Academy in January 1976. He went on to serve with distinction, gaining experience in key roles across the agency including general duties, country policing, traffic, community engagement, training and professional standards.

In 1998 his academic endeavours culminated in becoming the first WA Police officer to complete a PhD. He was awarded the Australian Police Medal in 2002, and at age 47 he was the youngest post-war Commissioner when he was appointed to the top job in June 2004.

Dr O’Callaghan’s term began by implementing the reforms of the Kennedy Royal Commission. He went on to oversee and implement widespread cultural, business and process change in the Western Australia Police. He also championed the Frontline First policing direction and reintroduced a ‘back to basics’ reassurance style of policing.

Commissioner Dawson to replace Dr O’Callaghan

Dr O’Callaghan will be replaced by the new WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson APM.

In his previous 38 years with the agency, including ten years as Deputy Commissioner, Mr Dawson managed operational policing within metropolitan and regional areas, including the specialist portfolios of serious and organised crime, counter terrorism and state protection.

Mr Dawson returns to WA Police after a three-year stint as Chief Executive of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.

He joined the Western Australia Police as a cadet in February 1976, going on to provide 38 years of continuous service in country and metropolitan positions across a range of portfolios. Appointed to the rank of superintendent in 1999, he became the inaugural principal of the WA Police Academy in Joondalup. The Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2002 saw him awarded the Australian Police Medal for distinguished service.

Chris Dawson, newly appointed WA Police Commissioner.

After long stints acting up as an Assistant Commissioner, he was appointed Deputy Commissioner under Karl O’Callaghan in July 2004, with a brief to lead an agency reform program resulting from outcomes from the Kennedy Royal Commission.

From May 2008, he had overall management of all operational policing within metropolitan and regional areas, including the specialist portfolios of serious and organised crime, counter terrorism and state protection.

In 2011, Mr Dawson headed up the biggest security operation in the history of WA Police, as State Commander for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). He was responsible for the security of all attending Heads of State from 53 Commonwealth countries and their respective senior ministers and delegates.

After ten years as Deputy Commissioner, Mr Dawson left WA Police in April 2014 to take up the role of Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, formerly the Australian Crime Commission.

He has also served as Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology. This experience is a key factor in his return to WA Police in August 2017 as the newly appointed WA Police Commissioner.