WA Police Commissioners 1867-1958

1853-1867 | 1958-present

Gustavus Edward Cockburn Hare (1811-1881)
Superintendent: June 18, 1867 to April 24, 1871

Hare was a member of yet another well-known family of British gentry, in this case one based in County Sussex. He was educated in Germany and graduated from the Bonn University. He is believed to have served as a captain in the Prussian Army. Later he retired to an estate in Ireland before accepting the position of Superintendent of Police in WA. Hare was a good administrator while serving as Superintendent and had the common sense to draw on the experience and knowledge of long-serving officers.

However, he seems to have been forever hunting for better paid public positions. It became evident he had his eye on Cockburn-Campbell's position. Gustavus Hare resigned as soon as the latter had died and went south to live out his remaining years as Resident Magistrate at Albany.

William Henry Timperley (1833-1909)
Acting Superintendent: April 24 1871 to 9 May 1871

This officer was a member of the Timperley family of Manchester, who in turn were descended from a prominent family of medieval English gentry. William was the son of a 'failed' settler who remained in WA to make his own way after the family returned to England. He eventually became a career police officer who commanded several important police districts and was for many years the second most senior officer in the Colony. Timperley left the Police Force in 1885 to become Superintendent of Rottnest Island.

He was the Resident Magistrate at Bunbury in later life and a notable figure in the cultural life of Late Colonial and Early Federation WA. Being a keen amateur anthropologist and scholar of the humanities, he was much in demand as a public lecturer. In addition, Timperley helped found an orchestral society and was the author of two novels. He received the Imperial Service Order for his contributions to the community.

Matthew Skinner Smith(1836-1887)
Superintendent: May 9 1871
Commissioner: January 13 to April 18 1887

Smith was a former captain in the British Army with a distinguished record in the Crimean War of 1854-1856 and the China Expedition of 1860. He was a member of an English landed gentry family with a strong tradition of military service – his father Matthew Smith reached the rank of lieutenant general. Smith arrived in WA with expectation of becoming secretary to the Governor, but the position fell through and he became a bank clerk until being handpicked to lead the Police Force.

Smith had gained much administrative experience in the army and he used this to good effect in the Police Force. In the face of press hostility and acute financial restrictions in the 1870s, he pushed through a number of reforms in a methodical and intelligent way. Amongst other things, a Detective Branch was established, the Imperial Water Police became part of a united Police Force and problems over uniforms and the rank structure were resolved. He also took measures to assert the independence of his office and strove to improve the lot of his subordinates. The Fenian episode of 1876 did not harm Smith's reputation. The Police Force was in relatively good shape by the mid-1880s, a situation marked by improved morale and public praise for the Commissioner's work.

In 1880 Smith was given the additional position of Commandant of the Enrolled Guard, consisting of former soldiers who protected Government House and other key sites and installations. From late 1885 to early 1887 he was Acting Colonial Secretary and an appointed member of the colonial Legislative Council. Commissioner Smith died in office and is buried at Albany.

George Braithwaite Phillips (1836-1900)
Acting Superintendent: December 9, 1885 to January 13 1887
Commissioner: April 1887 to March 26, 1900

As was inevitable, another Commissioner who was of gentry origins - in his case 'plantation aristocracy' from Barbados in the West Indies. Phillips was the son of J.R. Phillips, Resident Magistrate at Albany in the 1840s. George Phillips joined the public service in 1852 and rose to become Assistant Colonial Secretary. He took time out to take part in Robert Austin's exploration expedition to Shark Bay in 1854. Phillips had reserves of both moral and physical courage and was active in the Colonial Defence Force - he was Commandant on two occasions and reached the rank of lieutenant colonel.

He was related by marriage to other families of the colonial elite, such as the Burts and Hares and, like Smith and his successor Frederick Hare, a member of the influential Weld Club. The Police Act of 1892 was brought into effect in his time - it is still the governing legislation of the Western Australia Police.

The Phillips years were difficult ones for the police of the day, due to the impact of problems relating to the Gold Rush, labour disputes and the pastoral frontier. George Phillips also died in office.

William Chipper Lawrence (1848-1923)
Acting Commissioner: March 26 to April 18, 1900 and February 22 to 28, 1905

Lawrence, born in Bunbury, was the son of early settlers James Lawrence and Harriet Moore. He was a career police officer who joined in 1871 and rose through the ranks to be commissioned as a Sub-Inspector in 1885, after which he served as head of the Detective Branch and Officer in Charge of the Northwest in turn. In the mid-1890s he coordinated operations against the outlaw Pigeon and his followers. He was promoted to Inspector (1893), Chief Inspector (1899) and Superintendent (1900). Lawrence was second in command of the Police force for many years and senior officer in the Metropolitan area. During two brief periods when the office was completely vacant.

Lawrence was Acting Commissioner, to be replaced by the new appointee in 1900 and the substantive holder of the post in 1905. He was compelled to retire in 1912 at the same time as Commissioner Hare.

Frederick Arthur Hare (1852-1932)
Commissioner: April 18, 1900 to March 31, 1912

The son of Chief of Police Gustavus Hare and related by marriage to Commissioner Philips, he entered the civil service in 1871 and held several administrative and judicial posts. He was an Inspector in the Police Force during the 1880s before taking up successive positions as a Resident Magistrate, ending with a controversial term on the Goldfields. As was customary with many leading families of the colonial gentry, Hare sought and obtained a commission (as a captain in a Rifle Company) in the militia. Hare was a colourful and outspoken Commissioner of Police and a capable administrator.

However, Hare's time in office was a torrid one. Constant bickering with politicians and some subordinates attracted press criticism and comment, while he was slightly wounded in a failed murder attempt in 1907. Despite receiving one of the earliest King's Police Medals awarded in Australia, Hare's career ended in forced retirement arranged by political enemies of the day.

Robert Connell (1867-1956)
Acting Commissioner: April 1, 1912 to January 17, 1913
Commissioner: January 17, 1913 to January 31, 1933

The son of an Irish coast guard named Lot Connell, Robert Connell arrived in WA in 1886 and immediately joined the Police Force. In 1894 he was transferred to the Detective Branch (later the CIB) and rose through the ranks - Sub-Inspector (1899), Inspector (1904) in charge of the CIB and Chief Inspector (1911) - to eventually take over as Commissioner after the downfall of Hare.

As a Sub-Inspector at Kalgoorlie he was badly injured in the line of duty (1900) and had to be temporarily placed at Albany. After taking office as Commissioner under difficult circumstances, he followed through on many of the improvements planned or begun by Hare. Along with Matthew Smith, Connell deserves to be remembered as possibly one of the two most important Police Commissioners in WA history. Connell was a forward-thinking, strong willed officer, one capable of developing fairly intense personal likes and dislikes, but who also strove to maintain a balance between the different arms of the Force. The Traffic and Liquor and Gaming branches were founded during his years in office, while major reforms shook up the mode of police education in 1915. The introduction of women into the Police force was another key change in direction. As Commissioner, Robert Connell was an interesting figure in public life – he spoke, wrote and acted like a model gentleman of the Victorian era. He was the grandfather of the famous 'wheeler and dealer' of the WA INC years, Laurie Connell.

William Archibald Douglas (1873-1934)
Commissioner: February 1, 1933 to November 23, 1934

William Douglas was a Victorian by birth and worked as a labourer before joining the police in 1896. He began in the mounted section and, like Hunter, tried the Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB) briefly. He showed greater aptitude for 'practical' policing and rose steadily through the ranks in the course of wide-ranging service all over the state. As a corporal (a rank abolished later) he was highly commended in 1916 for his interest in and humanity towards Aborigines. Douglas was placed in charge of the North-West District as a 3rd Class Inspector in 1924.

He was there at the time of the Forrest River incident. From 1927 he was a 2nd class Inspector at Perth Central Station and, after a notable promotional row with Hunter and Purdue (1929), Acting Chief Inspector in charge the Liquor Branch in 1932. His premature death while serving as Commissioner was blamed on ill health brought about by great hardships he endured in the outback.

David Hunter (1878-1947)
Acting Commissioner: November 23 to December 4, 1934
Commissioner: December 4, 1934 until December 31, 1945

After working as a store man in Victoria, David Hunter joined the police in 1901. He was transferred to the CIB in 1902, but had a somewhat chequered career. In 1907 he switched to the Mounted Police (Leonora, Laverton and Northampton), in which he served with great distinction. He took part (along with William Douglas) in the notable Canning Stock Route expedition of 1911-1912.

Promotion to sergeant did not come until 1923; Commissioner Connell handpicked him with a brief to totally reform Traffic Branch. Hunter performed so well that he was promoted to Inspector in 1927. After that, his rise was meteoric and controversial (Second Class inspector late 1927, First Class Inspector 1928, Chief Inspector 1933). His promotion to Commissioner was almost automatic - he had gained experience in all branches of the Force except the Water Police and had modernised and improved the Traffic portfolio. Hunter proved to be a wily and far-sighted Police Commissioner and made a major administrative contribution to the State during the traumatic Great Depression and World War 11 years.

John Doyle (1887-1987)
Acting Commissioner: January 1 to December 31, 1945
Commissioner: January 1, 1946 to April 15, 1951

John Doyle, originally from county Wexford in Ireland, served in the Royal Irish Constabulary from 1907 to 1913. He joined the WA Police in 1914. He was transferred to the CIB in 1916 and later worked with the famous Grenville Purdue on the O'Neill murder. Identified as a 'brainy' operator who specialised in complicated cases, Doyle reached commissioned rank (3rd Class Inspector) in 1935.

Doyle was officer-in-charge of the CIB from 1936 and jumped rank to 1st Class Inspector (1937), a promotion marked by disputes with the Commissioner and an appeal to the Minister. He succeeded Purdue as Chief Inspector (1940) and Hunter as Commissioner after the job was advertised for the first time. He proved to be a tough, demanding but fair-minded Commissioner and was later awarded an OBE. One of the most spectacular public events of his career was a Royal Commission of 1949 which investigated Doyle's management of the Force; the Commissioner was vindicated.

Thomas Hermann Andersen (1894-1975)
Commissioner: April 16, 1951 to January 4, 1958

Thomas Andersen, a former Fremantle labourer and the son of a settler of Danish origin, joined the Force in 1914 and gained experience as a mounted officer and in administration. He was transferred to the Liquor Branch when it was formed in 1923. Andersen became a sergeant in 1934 and jumped rank to 1st class sergeant in 1938; the responsibilities of the Inspector in charge of the branch had been expanded to include the Weights and Measures and Firearms Branches, so he was well-placed to secure a senior position.

He bolstered this by obtaining an array of qualifications in accountancy and mercantile law. Andersen was promoted to Inspector in 1945 and rose rapidly to Chief Inspector in 1949. As Commissioner in place of Doyle, he moved to capitalise on the passing of an era of continual financial constraints, but failed to manage internal turbulence in the Police Force effectively. He was eventually moved sideways and placed in control of the Betting Control Board.

1853-1867 | 1958-present