NSW Police embarks on new era with appointment of incoming commissioner Mick Fuller

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, and NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione at a press conference where he announced his retirement in April. 2nd February 2017 Photo: Janie Barrett Photo: Janie BarrettAfter years of infighting and protracted speculation, the NSW Police Force has moved into a new era, with promises of a fresh leadership style and no tolerance for past grievances.
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Incoming commissioner Mick Fuller said his brief was different to that of his predecessor Andrew Scipione and in it was an aim to change the model of policing that has existed for 20 years.

“While that has served us well in some areas the downside of that is the community has changed over 20 years, the environment has changed over 20 years, crime has changed over 20 years,” he said after his appointment was announced on Thursday.

“So from our perspective it’s about how do we become more dynamic?

“How do we look at the resources we have – we are nearly a $3.5 billion organisation – and how do we better service the community?”

The 49-year-old’s hopes were confirmed in a late night phone call on Wednesday night.

His name would be taken to the following morning’s cabinet meeting as the preferred choice for new police commissioner.

By 10.30am on Thursday, Mr Fuller, a police officer of 29 years, was outlining his vision for the state’s 16,500-odd sworn officers, highlighting a focus on hot-ticket issues such as organised crime and terrorism.

Getting police numbers right across the state and focusing on lone-wolf style terrorist targets who could act in isolation would also be key areas, Mr Fuller flagged.

He jumped the rank of deputy commissioner and his superiors Catherine Burn and David Hudson – both of whom applied for the top job – to win the commissioner’s role.

The prospects of Ms Burn and former deputy commissioner Nick Kaldas making commissioner were always going to be shadowed by deep animosity between the pair, which stemmed from a controversial bugging operation in the early 2000s.

Infighting, which extended to supporters, had served as a distraction for the top brass and frustration for those wanting to get on with the job and advance their careers.

Mr Fuller’s appointment signalled generational change in the force, with Ms Burn and Mr Kaldas having long been touted as Mr Scipione’s most obvious successors.

He confirmed one of the first priorities would be gathering his management team to outline structural reform and gauge whether they were willing to “come on the journey or not”.

“Certainly the first thing is getting that management team in and really moving towards that, rather than being so tactical and worrying about what happened this morning on the street,” he told Fairfax Media on Thursday afternoon.

“Whilst that is important there is a lot of senior police to deal with that and we’ve got really strategic issues we have to focus on.”

Acknowledging the past disharmony between deputies would have been both a distraction and tiring for those involved, Mr Fuller was adamant it would not continue.

“I certainly can’t change the past and I will be clear with all assistant commissioners and superintendents up is that those days are over,” he said.

Ms Burn and Mr Hudson both congratulated Mr Fuller on his success on Thursday. Asked whether he thought the deputies would continue under his leadership, Mr Fuller said he wouldn’t know until he mapped out the vision and his feelings in terms of their strengths and weaknesses.

“We had a good working relationship while I was Assistant Commissioner and they were deputies so I can’t imagine they would be leaving because of Mick Fuller,” he said.

“It will be more that they are leaving because the organisation is going in a different direction.”

Asked whether she would stay on, Ms Burn said: “I accept and respect the decision made by cabinet and I look forward to working with the new commissioner.”

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the decision process for who would be the next commissioner was not an easy one.

“But certainly in terms of outcome… Assistant Commissioner Fuller is a successful applicant,” she said at Parliament House.

“He brings a wealth of experience, a wealth of commitment and great prioritisation and that is in sync with where the government wants to take policing.”

Since 2014, Mr Fuller, who is the force’s corporate spokesman for domestic violence, has served as the Central Metropolitan Region commander. He oversees major events in the CBD, such as New Year’s Eve, and played a leading role in the initial response to the 2014 Lindt Cafe siege.

One of the biggest challenges for Mr Fuller early on will be his handling of the Lindt Cafe siege inquest findings, due to be handed down in coming weeks.