The Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, Ken Lay, made an impressive case for policing change in an address to a Hume Business Breakfast on Friday 14 November.

It was on this day exactly three years ago that Mr Lay was sworn in as Chief Commissioner.

He took over the helm at a time of immense turmoil in the leadership of the organization.

In addition to steadying the ship, he has recently outlined a ‘Blue Paper’ to drive the future priorities of Victoria Police.

In his address he reflected on the change that has taken place since he first joined the force in 1974.  Back then, it was a world where local police were based in local police stations and they caught local crooks committing crimes in the local area.  But, he says, the world has changed – and Victoria Police must change with the times.

The rapid pace of social, economic and technological change that is sweeping the world in general is being felt in Victoria in particular.  He said “you cannot fight the future – if you do you will be destined to fail.  You need to adapt to change”.

Ken Lay

The Blue Paper outlines four key priorities for the future of Victoria Police.  These include combating:

  • organized crime;
  • the devastation caused by the ‘ice’ epidemic;
  • family violence;
  • cyber crime.

He argues that the research shows traditional models of policing will not address these issues.  There need to be new ways of dealing with these challenges.  Whilst making it plain that police officers having a local presence was still an important part of policing, significant crime prevention strategies in the future will be conducted away from the local police station.  This needs to be resourced appropriately and the community (and politicians) need to understand the priorities. This will be a challenge.

The Chief Commissioner is passionate about reducing the impacts of family violence – and in particular, the need for many men to change their behavior towards women and children.  He is accepting that Victoria Police needs to also change its behavior and this week has initiated a wide ranging investigation and review of workplace bullying and sexual harassment within the force.  He acknowledges that this may be very uncomfortable for some people within his organization but he is committed to cultural change.

Ken Lay may come across as understated; but he is certainly not underrated.  He is an impressive leader who seems to have good political nous with immense practical experience.

Congratulations to Ken on his third anniversary as Chief Commissioner.