Atkinson hangs on in hope - Palm Island

By: Jamie Walker, Roseanne Barrett

UNDER intense pressure over his leadership of the Queensland Police Service, commissioner Bob Atkinson said yesterday his announced reappointment was no certainty.
The 62-year-old career cop has been held directly responsible by the Crime and Misconduct Commission for ``seriously flawed'' police investigations into the 2004 death in custody of Palm Islander Mulrunji Doomadgee.
The agency slammed Mr Atkinson over a review of the original investigation conducted by then-acting superintendent Michael McKay and then-inspector Robert Gee, officers he had handpicked to do the job and who reported directly to him.
Mr Atkinson said he hoped to take up the extension of his term as commissioner, announced by Anna Bligh and Police Minister Neil Roberts in February, eight months before his existing contract expired. But he conceded he would not be entitled to sign the new deal until October. ``The government have indicated they are going to reappoint me, I am very grateful for that,'' he said. ``I feel honoured and fortunate to be able to do this job. I would like to be able to continue on.''
As foreshadowed by The Australian, the CMC recommended disciplinary action against four of the police involved in the initial investigation -- Townsville-based regional crime co-ordinator Warren Webber, Inspector Mark Williams of the QPS Ethical Standards Command, Townsville CIB boss Detective Senior Sergeant Raymond Kitching and Palm Island-based Detective Sergeant Darren Robinson.
While it did not name them, the CMC urged consideration also be given to disciplinary proceedings against the two IRT members and delivered an ultimatum to Mr Atkinson to take action within a fortnight or have the job done for him.
The CMC found that the failure of the police to properly police themselves in the Doomadgee affair indicated a ``belief within the Queensland police service that the best way to protect the reputation of the service is not to expose its shortcomings''.
Mr Atkinson was responsible for the ``culture'' in which the flawed Palm Island Review by the IRT was produced, and had to be held accountable for it.
``I am now looking to the Police Commissioner to acknowledge the flawed and unacceptable conduct of the officers involved in both the initial police investigation and the QPS review,'' CMC chairman Martin Moynihan said.
``He must step up, take strong, decisive action and restore the confidence of the public -- and of its own members -- in the police service.'' Central to the CMC's criticism was the interaction of police involved in the initial investigation of Doomadgee's death with the man who was later found by a coroner to have caused it, Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, and the failure of the review team to pursue this. Mr Atkinson said he had long acknowledged the failings of the initial investigation but the service had learnt ``bitter lessons'' from it.

ONLINE Read the full CMC report at

DISCIPLINARY action against four police involved in the original police investigation into Mulrunji Doomadgee's 2004 death, and the two senior officers appointed to review it
ULTIMATUM to commissioner Bob Atkinson to act within 14 days or have the CMC take over and initiate disciplinary proceedings in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal
RE-EMERGENCE of a culture of cover-up in the QPS, with a belief by senior police that the best way to protect its reputation is not to expose its shortcomings
FINDING that Mr Atkinson is responsible for the "flawed" Palm Island Review, and must be held accountable for it