High-ranking Victoria Police officer Luke Cornelius’s stunning take-down of the “tin foil hat brigade” last Friday was not the first time the straight-talking cop has won the public’s hearts and minds.
Renowned for his tough stance on crime and ability to tell it how it is, Assistant Commissioner Cornelius’s strong rebuke of planned anti-lockdown protests at a press conference earned him praise across the globe.
But not only that. It resonated strongly with colleagues in one of the toughest years the force has faced.
One senior Victoria Police officer said there was no “police speak”; he spoke normally and his message was straight to the point.
He said Mr Cornelius had taken a “tough on crime” approach in North West Metro since taking over as assistant commissioner in April 2019, and was focused on driving down offending across the region.
Armed crime has been a particular focus for the distinguished officer after several violent shootings in the northern and western suburbs over the past two years.
At another press conference in February this year, after a string of shootings in Tullamarine, Melton and Epping, Mr Cornelius delivered a pointed message to those planning to take up arms.
“Crooks should not think that we’re going to stand by and let criminal activity occur,” he said.
“The fact that shooting victims are not prepared to be fulsome in their discussions with us about how they came to be shot tells us something about those individuals.”
It’s comments like these, which echo those from last Friday, that have captured the imagination of Australians and rapidly promoted Mr Cornelius to one of the nation’s favourite cops.
“They’re taking every opportunity to leverage the current situation to serve their ridiculous notions about so called sovereign citizens, about constitutional issues and about how 5G is going to kill your grandkids,” he said of the protesters on Friday.
“I mean it’s just crazy, it’s batsh*t crazy nonsense.”
In May 2019, after Melbourne woman Courtney Herron was attacked and killed in Royal Park, Mr Cornelius again delivered a pointed message when assuring women Melbourne was a safe city and they “should and can feel safe, without fear”.
“This is about men’s behaviour. This is not about women’s behaviour,” he said.
Mr Cornelius has been a strong advocate for gender equality within the police force and an outspoken agitator against domestic violence.
He led the force’s response to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission review into sexual discrimination and harassment in Victoria Police.
In a 2019 interview with Flinders University, where he graduated in with an honours degree in law, Mr Cornelius said the review was about making sure if his 13-year-old daughter came to him a said she wanted to be a police officer, he could unequivocally say to her, “Yeah darling, that’s fantastic, I’ll support you.”
Mr Cornelius is Victoria Police’s longest serving assistant commissioner and joined the force in 2003 after 14 years as a federal agent with the Australian Federal Police.
He is a qualified solicitor and barrister and has previously served as a commander of the force’s legal services department and assistant commissioner of the then ethical standards department and the Southern Metro region.
He has had a distinguished career and was recognised in the 2010 Australia Day Honours with the Australian Police Medal for his contribution to police reform, the promotion of ethics and integrity in policing, human rights, engagement with vulnerable communities and for capacity building in East Timor.
He has also been awarded the National Police Service Medal, National Medal, Police Overseas Service Medal, Commissioner’s Commendation and United Nations Medal for service in East Timor.
He also sits on the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine Council, the Victorian Donor Tissue Bank Management Committee and is the Chief Commissioner’s representative on the Blue Ribbon Foundation Board.
And while new found fame might have distracted some, it doesn’t appear that the Assistant Commissioner is getting too caught up in it, declining an interview about the reaction to his take-down and getting on with the job of stopping Saturday’s protest.