WHEN Superintendent John Gralton took the reins of Newcastle police six years ago, the hangover of alcohol-fuelled violence on city streets was still throbbing.
Officers had just come through years of going to “brawl to brawl to brawl”, before controversial lockout laws were introduced in 2008, but the reality was that five Newcastle venues were still on the state’s most violent list.
Superintendent Gralton decided that Newcastle needed a culture change, and it’s why he doesn’t hold back in fighting attempts to relax lockout laws.
“I say caution, caution, caution,” he said. “The city has changed, the culture has changed, and that’s because we’ve done that work. We implemented those restrictions.”
Speaking on his last day as Newcastle police chief, Superintendent Gralton lists building on the lockout laws as one of his proudest achievements in leading the city’s “exceptional” officers since 2011.
He admitted it was with an “element of sadness” that he left the coveted post, but also great pleasure as he looked back.
Superintendent Gralton also recalled a press conference where he vowed to “leave no stone unturned” after two elderly residents were murdered in the SummitCare nursing home in Wallsend in 2013.
He said police got their guilty verdict through “thousands of hours” of investigation.
“Our detectives didn’t let us down,” he said.
“They worked methodically. Things like pouring over, frame by frame by frame, of CCTV to eliminate suspects. Unbelievable. You can only imagine how tedious it was, but how committed they were.”
Then there was the time police came under intense scrutiny as the Special Commission of Inquiry probed alleged cover-ups of child sexual abuse in the Hunter.
“We were absolutely vindicated in that Commission of Inquiry,” Superintendent Gralton said, highlighting the fact Newcastle police had charged a number of people from inside and outside the church with child sexual offences.
Despite those challenges, Superintendent Gralton said his toughest day came when Senior Constable Tony Tamplin – one of the Hunter’s most loved officers – died after suffering a heart attack.
“The day Tony died – it took a piece of the city’s heart,” he said.
Throughout all the ups and downs, he said Newcastle police remained a “tight” unit.
“I’m very proud of that,” he said. “The men and women, the backup administration support, the volunteers. They are the ones who make a difference on the street.”
Superintendent Gralton will continue fighting crime as Tuggerah Lakes police chief. Superintendent Brett Greentree will take over as Newcastle’s top cop next week.