Robert (Bob) Walton - 2002

Bob Walton joined the Police officially in August 1946, after returning from serving in the New Zealand Army in the Second World War.

During the war, he was deployed to Egypt in 1943, serving as a Sergeant with the 10th Reinforcements and served in the New Zealand Division through the Italian campaign. He was made a commissioned officer and finally assigned to the occupation force in Japan at the war’s end.

After joining NZ Police on his return to NZ, Bob spent six months in Wellington, before became a ‘beat cop’ in Auckland. In 1950, he was transferred to the detective branch, where he became a central figure in crime-fighting in the Auckland region.

Bob was closely involved in the 1963 Bethells Road Police shooting, which took the lives of two of his work-mates Detective Sergeant Neville Power and Detective Inspector Wally Chalmers. Following this incident, and a further one where two more police officers were shot dead three weeks later in Lower Hutt, Bob was part of the team given the job of drawing up the requirements for the first Armed Offenders Squad in New Zealand. This came into force in 1964.

Bob was also involved in the 1965 Mt Eden Prison Riots, and as officer in charge oversaw the police response to the incident.

After studying policing, drugs and enforcement measures in Washington, Bob utilised his wide knowledge in the area to help draft the 1965 Narcotics Act.

Promoted to Detective Superintendent in 1965, Bob was stationed at Police National Headquarters in Wellington and in 1970, at only 48 years of age, he become the youngest ever to be appointed Assistant Commissioner at the time. He was said to be respected by “crims” and admired by his peers – he was “a cop’s cop”.

In 1978 Bob became Commissioner of Police.

During his tenure as Commissioner, Bob oversaw the Police response to the Ngati Whatua occupation of Bastion Point, where with military-like planning, 600 Police surrounded the point and removed protesters in Army trucks.

In 1979, Bob established a specialist disaster victim identification team following the Granville train disaster in New South Wales. This newly established team was used that same year following the Mt Erebus disaster.

During the 1981 Springbok Tour, Bob was responsible for ordering the first match in Hamilton abandoned, when protestors invaded the pitch. Then Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, ordered that the Tour proceed; Bob made sure that his police were protected. He demanded his officers policing the Tour be the first ones equipped with long batons and skull-saving helmets.

Bob also held the position of Police Commissioner at the time of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the conviction of Arthur Allan Thomas for the 1970 murders of Harvey and Jeanette Crewe.

After five years as Police Commissioner, overseeing some landmark events in NZ history, Bob retired in 1983. A Territorial Army Officer, throughout his Police Career he also retired with the military rank of Colonel.

Bob made an immense contribution to the Police Welfare Fund Group and in 2002, in recognition of these contributions to Police Welfare, he was awarded the only Life Membership of the Police Welfare Fund to date.