Western Australia’s new Police Commissioner Col Blanch gives first interview in top job

Western Australia’s new Police Commissioner has vowed to aggressively target drug traffickers and their criminal networks in the state.

Speaking at his first media conference since taking on the new role, Commissioner Blanch said WA detectives were working hard with their state and federal counterparts to track down the source of illegal drugs. 

He said in the past week, nine people had been charged by the Serious and Organised Crime Division with serious drug offences.

Police charged eight men and a woman after two separate investigations and subsequent searches of cars and houses across Perth turned up 22 kilograms of methamphetamine, $420,000 in cash, 200 grams of cocaine, and three kilograms of gold bullion.

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“While we have seized the drugs and cash from these established criminal networks, our job is not yet done and we will continue to pursue the source of these drugs,” Commissioner Blanch said.

Police believe the drugs came from organised crime groups in the eastern states.

Commissioner Blanch said the vehicles were kitted out with complicated hidden compartments that require a sequence of button pushing to reveal what’s inside.

He said these types of vehicle modifications were more prevalent in the east.

Commissioner Blanch said stopping methamphetamines getting past WA’s borders was a top priority.

“We’re focused on those who bring drugs across by road and by air and we’ve got some cool techniques to identify when they are coming,” he said.

‘We want to solve the unsolved’

Commissioner Blanch said there would be a big focus on solving crime.

“I’m going to focus on investigations, solving crime, and doing prosecutions as best we can to make sure those who are committing crimes are being held accountable by the courts,” he said.

But solving cold cases was also a priority.

“Unsolved cases from many years ago are so challenging to solve,” he said.

An old campfire on sandy ground in front of beach scrub at dusk, with a tin shack in the background.
Four-year-old Cleo Smith was missing for 18 days after being taken from her family’s camp site near Carnarvon.(ABC News: James Carmody)

“Today, it’s very unusual for us not to solve a serious case. And we’ve seen that more recently with Cleo and the Nick Martin case because we have access to greater technology, greater forensics. Things are seen — CCTV is everywhere.

“We want to solve the old unsolved cases for the families, for the community of Western Australia.

“And one thing I am confident about is that evidence gets better, people still come forward years, years later, and forensics just get better. Our technology gets better.

“So, I hope I can solve those cases in my five years. If not, I’m still confident it will get solved over time, because we’re only going to get better at our job.”

A head and shoulders school profile shot of a smiling Gerard Ross.
The murder of 11-year-old Gerard Ross is one of Western Australia’s high profile cold cases.(Supplied: WA Police)

Bringing back a ‘love for the job’

“I want a police force that is respected and trusted by the community,” Commissioner Blanch said.

“I want to maintain and grow that trust. I want to make sure the community and police work together as a team.”

The new police commissioner is also focused on mental health supports and has urged staff to turn off work notifications once they’re off the clock.

A generic photograph of an unidentified WA Police officer wearing a high visibility police vest over a blue uniform.
Commissioner Blanch wants to bring back a love of policing among his officers.(ABC News: Kenith Png)

The WA Police Union has long been calling for changes to workplace culture amid record attrition rates in the force.

“We deal with difficult things. This is a tough job. But I’ll look at the conditions they work in. If it’s a matter of knowing the roster they’re working in advance – they’re the things I can change. I’ll try bring back the love for this job for those who’ve lost it,” he said.

“I say it’s a tough job, but I love this job.”

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