COMMISSIONER Karl O’Callaghan’s 13 years as WA’s police boss end on Tuesday, but closure already came for him today with an emotional farewell speech at Joondalup Police Academy.
There will be a permanent reminder at the academy of Mr O’Callaghan’s 43 years of police work, with the parade ground on which he was speaking now named “Karl J. O’Callaghan Parade Ground”.
Mr O’Callaghan, whose voice rarely falters in the spotlight, had to take a moment to compose himself as he retold the story of how catastrophically injured officer Ryan Marron stood up from his wheelchair to receive his retirement medal at a recent ceremony.
Mr Marron, a former constable, was left paralysed and unable to speak after contracting Murray Valley Encephalitis in a remote community in 2011.
“To see him get up out of his wheelchair and stand for me to receive his medal was one of the most poignant moments for me as police commissioner… it sticks here in my heart,” Mr O’Callaghan told the crowd.
He said he wore his heart on his sleeve as a policeman, recalling another moving moment when he had to tell the wife of an officer that her husband had been hit by a car and killed.
Mr O’Callaghan and the police chaplain attended the scene of the officer’s death the night it happened.
“When we got there his body was lying on the median strip, we both knelt down together and he said a prayer,” he reflected.
“That was probably one of the lowest points of being Police Commissioner having to then go and tell his wife what happened.”
Speaking to media after the ceremony, Mr O’Callaghan admitted he wasn’t big on pomp, but considered the proceedings to be a stirring way to end his career.
Answering a question from the Times on incoming Commissioner Chris Dawson, he said their styles were different but expected continued reform under his watch.
“Our views and our commitments on what policing should be are very similar,” he said.
He considered terrorism to be a major challenge facing Mr Dawson as well as the State’s finances.
“It will be a difficult time,” he said.
“Terrorism is one of them… preparing Western Australia to have the best sort of response and best sort of intelligence in those areas will be a challenge for him.”