Fife’s new police chief on changes and challenges

Derek McEwan  on his 2012 appointment as  Chierf Inspector at Glenrothes Police Station (Pic: Neil Doig)
Derek McEwan on his 2012 appointment as Chierf Inspector at Glenrothes Police Station (Pic: Neil Doig)

Fife’s new Divisional Commander, Derek McEwan, has taken up his post.

He succeeds Chief Superintendent Colin Gall who has retired – and it is a landmark for a man who has served the area where he grew up.

In this article, he looks back on the changes, and the challenges.

“Taking on the role of Divisional Commander is a great privilege and a significant high point in my career.

I began my policing career in Fife aged 16 as a cadet. I followed in the footsteps of my father, now retired Chief Superintendent of Fife Constabulary, my brother who is still an officer, and my uncle who was an officer with the Metropolitan Police.

It was a vocation, a role that my younger self grasped with all of the enthusiasm and vigour you would expect. I was motivated by the sense of purpose that came from catching criminals and preventing them from further offending. It was that enthusiasm for investigation and the pursuit of detecting crime that led me down a path to divisional CID and a role I loved.

Policing was different in 1994 The basic principles of guard watch and patrol have not changed but the way we police, what we police and our role in society and public protection has evolved. As a young officer we policed the public space, we reacted and responded. In my career the values of policing have not changed in that we still need to police with the consent of our communities.

However, we need to adapt as the world changes and I have seen a shift in our approach as we operate ever more in the private space, protecting people from violence and abuse in their homes and in cyber space. We aspire to predict, intervene and prevent with a strong focus on early and effective intervention, identifying those who are at risk or who pose a risk.

So as I take on the role of Divisional Commander I have had cause to reflect on how policing, and my role in policing, has changed since I walked through the doors of Police Headquarters, Dysart, as a probationary constable in 1994. My values haven’t changed; the desire to catch criminals and prevent offending remain and I see that still resonates through the dedicated officers and staff in the Division and is very much reflected in the excellent and strong service Fife Division delivers.

What has struck me increasingly in recent years as a Local Area Commander, in my national role within Custody Division and latterly as Superintendent responsible for operational policing in Fife is the strong and enduring impact of vulnerability, inequality and deprivation as it relates to perpetrators and victims of crime. This is not new to me but in my, now rather long, career in policing I have had the opportunity to witness first-hand the inter-generational impact. It drives home an appreciation that the answers don’t lie in enforcement alone and that we, as a police division, present only part of the solution.

As Divisional Commander for Fife my ethos is based on a fundamental recognition of addressing crime and the causes of crime. I want to contribute to building communities across Fife through the following key aims and priorities;

Strong and Capable; resilient, empowered officers and staff who are there to support local communities with the capability to respond to both current and emerging issues.

Safety, Protection and Security; continuing to drive down violent crime and anti-social behaviour so that we can all feel safe in our homes, towns and villages, as well as delivering a local service that provides people with reassurance that their valuables, home, money, and their identity are protected in the real and virtual world.

Community Focus; Listening and responding to the needs and wishes of local communities and delivering a police service to meet these needs, supported by meaningful community partnerships.

I believe that by investing in effective partnerships to improve outcomes for all, to reduce inequalities, to divert young people away from crime and to deliver early intervention to protect vulnerable people we have the best possible opportunity to impact on a long term and sustainable improvement in quality of life for everyone across Fife.

This is already evident in our commitment to vulnerability with the creating and development of the Divisional Risk and Concern Hub which provides a central and specialist approach to collating and assessing risk and vulnerability and ensuring that men, woman or children who are vulnerable are supported within the broader public protection partnership.

In addition we have reviewed and enhanced the way in which we deal with mssing people, supporting partners in their efforts to identify the needs of individuals which has resulted in a considerable reduction in the number of missing people reported in Fife.

Working closely with the Community Safety Partnership we are in the process of replacing the ageing Fife public space CCTV system which in turn will provide Fife with one of the most modern CCTV systems in the UK. Along with reshaping our police estate focusing on creating a more efficient and modern estate such as locating within secondary schools, and identifying opportunities for partners to enter into police premises such as the work ongoing to have the Scottish Court Service relocate some of their services into Kirkcaldy Police Station.

Central to our approach though is the local policing teams led by your Local Area Commanders.

It is they, supported by our many specialist officers and staff, who are at the heart of policing in Fife. It is those officers who listen to your concerns and work to resolve them, who respond to your emergencies any time of the day or night and who work in the most challenging circumstances you might imagine. Your local policing teams are alive to the issues that matter in your area and do their very best to respond, whether it be nuisance off road motorbikes, public space disorder and vandalism or noise nuisance in your street.

Since I joined the police there have been significant reductions in crime. You are at far less risk now of being assaulted in public or having your home or car broken into. In many ways you have never been safer. Whilst new and emerging crime types typically committed in the virtual world have an ever increasing part to play through the national expertise Police Scotland can now call upon, we are increasingly better able to adapt and tackle these issues.

Finally I would like to pay tribute to the women and men from Fife Division who work so hard to keep you all safe. The passion, dedication and commitment these officers and staff display to the communities of Fife is at a level I have not seen in my 24 years of policing. “