18 Jul 2008

Police chief during 1981 Springbok tour dies

8:31 am on 18 July 2008

Former police commissioner Bob Walton has died at his home in Wellington. He was 86.

The current Police Commissioner Howard Broad says Mr Walton saw policing through a tumultuous time during his tenure as commissioner from 1978 until 1983.

The era included the occupation of Bastion Point in 1978 and the 1981 Springbok Tour.

Early in his career, Mr Walton pioneered specialist teams such as the drugs and armed offenders squads, and developed procedures for containing crime scenes which are still used today.

He was a Commissioner during the Springbok rugby tour of 1981 and widely credited with averting catastrophic violence from angry rugby fans when the South Africa-Waikato game was cancelled because of a pitch invasion.

Fellow police officers and protesters have praised him for the way he handled that volatile situation.

Mr Walton believed strongly in the rule of law, and said at the time that hard-line tactics were never willingly used: measures the police adopt are dictated by the situations they face.

Mr Walton is survived by his wife Marjorie and daughter Jan.

Police say Mr Walton's family has accepted an offer for the funeral to be a police service. It is expected to be held in Wellington next week.