FROM the VAULT – CoP Robert Atkinson

Robert Atkinson commenced cadet training for recruitment in the Queensland Police Force in 1968 with the first station posting at Hemmant, near the port of Brisbane, and relatively close to his childhood home at Wynnum.  Within five years Constable Atkinson had been promoted to the Plain Clothes division of Brisbane’s Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB).  This softly spoken policeman kindly and cleverly continued to unravel many terrible crimes during his next twelve years as the one man CIB outfit at Goondiwindi and then with a team on the Sunshine Coast.

Detective Senior Constable Robert Atkinson, standing tall in the centre row, at the Prosecutors Course, July 1977.
Image PM1683c courtesy of the Queensland Police Museum.

Degrees in Administrative Leadership and Police Management qualified Detective Sergeant Atkinson to study at the FBI National Academy, Quantico, where he graduated with a Certificate in Criminal Justice.  Promotions to Inspector, Superintendent, Chief Super and Assistant Commissioner followed, and in November 2000 Mr Atkinson became Police Commissioner.

Robert Atkinson, at the rank of Assistant Commissioner in 1998.
Image courtesy of the Queensland Police Museum.

An advocate for multiculturalism, Commissioner Atkinson encouraged important links with a variety of ethnic and religious communities, and steady progress was made to recruit higher numbers of police and civilian staff, focusing on personnel with Indigenous and multicultural heritage.  The March 2004 induction parade produced the highest number of Indigenous recruits to date (2004).  Commissioner Atkinson also encouraged partnerships with volunteer organisations, promoting this ‘P’ from four new focus principles: Professionalism, People, Performance and Partnerships.

Commissioner Atkinson oversaw the introduction of a national framework to be followed by government leaders after terrorist attacks in the United States of America on September 11, 2001.  Queensland’s turn to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) loomed shortly after but proved to be a great success.  Mr Atkinson stated in July 2002 “CHOGM involved the largest security operation undertaken in the 138-year history of the Queensland Police Service.  To bring it to a successful conclusion, while maintaining core policing services throughout Queensland, was an achievement that demonstrated the Service’s capacity to manage security for large-scale events”.

Other achievements by Commissioner Atkinson included the introduction of a state-wide secure digital radio network, establishment of a Counter Terrorism Coordination Unit and five Tactical Crime Squads.  An expansion to the Awards for Excellence categories added Crime Prevention, and increased Police Liaison Officer (PLO) positions included the first Sudanese and Muslim PLO’s.  In 2003 Mr Atkinson recognised the 110th anniversary of the Queensland Police Museum, and praised the performance of Police Pipes and Drums members who had fronted 160,000 people at the Sydney Football Stadium when the Edinburgh Military Tattoo travelled there in 2005.  Policelink, a call centre for use by members of the public to report non-urgent crime, was officially opened by Mr Atkinson in 2010 to compliment the emergency 000 service.  The location in the aptly named Dandiiri (Aboriginal word ‘to meet’) Contact Centre is the meeting and work location of several state government services.

A relaxed and retired Police Commissioner Robert Atkinson wears his Order of Australia medal and enjoys celebrations at the Queensland Police 150th parade, held in Brisbane in 2014.
Image courtesy of Senior Sergeant Mel Wilkins.

After retirement from the Queensland Police Service, the skills in leadership and community engagement consistently displayed by Mr Atkinson during his 44 year police career were recognised; he was awarded with and named as Officer of the Order of Australia.


This article was written by Museum Assistant Georgia Grier from the best resources available within the Queensland Police Museum.  The Police Museum is open 9am to 4pm Monday to Thursday and 10am to 3pm on the last Sunday of the month (Feb-Nov) and is located on the Ground Floor of Police Headquarters at 200 Roma Street, Brisbane. Contact: E: [email protected]

“FROM the VAULT- CoP Robert Atkinson” by the Queensland Police Service is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (BY) 2.5 Australia Licence. Permissions may be available beyond the scope of this licence.

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