VICTORIA Police is likely to undergo a major change in how it manages its road safety unit in a bid to lower the road toll, following the resignation of Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe.
Mr Walshe, a 44-year veteran of the force, announced his retirement yesterday but will not step down until mid-year.
Chief Commissioner Ken Lay said his highly decorated deputy had done a tremendous job in delivering last year's record low road toll.
He described Mr Walshe, who oversees areas including road and regional policing, as a "great man" who had enjoyed a stellar career at Victoria Police, denying his departure was linked to critical findings against him in an Ombudsman's report last year that prompted the resignation of former chief commissioner Simon Overland.
But Mr Lay said the departure gave Victoria Police an opportunity to give whoever replaces Mr Walshe as the state's top road cop responsibility for road safety and nothing else, allowing them to focus entirely on the critical area.
In recent years, Mr Lay said, that role had been combined with oversight of other roles. "I suspect I'll actually separate it from the regions role [and others] to have a senior executive with . . . responsibility [for that alone]," he said.
"I like the model where there is a senior executive that can just absolutely focus on road safety and road policing and engage in it.
"Kieran has done a mighty job in his portfolio. But I think to be the absolute very best we can be . . . there's an opportunity to rethink that."
Mr Lay said Mr Walshe, who joined the police force as a 16-year-old in 1968, was leaving to spend more time with his family.
Mr Walshe echoed this and said he would would take a holiday before tackling a growing list of household jobs.
He said his departure was delayed because of the turmoil that surrounded Mr Overland's exit from the force.
"I thought it was important that we had some stability, we had some very unfortunate things occur last year.
"Simon was a very honourable man . . . who was leading this organisation in the right direction.
"That was unfortunate for Simon to depart, but I felt it was important for me to be here."
Mr Walshe, 60, said he had no regrets from his career and was most proud of his work on Black Saturday and in counterterrorism.
Police Association secretary Greg Davies described Mr Walshe as a practical policeman and lauded his work in a range of areas, including the ethical standards department.