New inspector looks, learns – and loves Argyll

Inspector Paul Collins is settling into life in Argyll.

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As police postings go, there can be few more beautiful places to be than Mid Argyll, Kintyre and the Isles.

But it’s fair to say it is taking a bit of getting used to for Inspector Paul Collins.

After 16 years in the force, primarily spent in Motherwell and other parts of Lanarkshire, the newly-promoted officer is now getting settled into life in Lochgilphead.

He started in post on April 26, taking over the reins from Inspector Julie McLeish, who moved on earlier this year to a position in Cumnock.

Looking for a fresh challenge, Argyll was the place he chose.

‘I spent the last three-and-a-bit years working in Hamilton on missing persons for Lanarkshire, which is something I loved,’ he explained.

‘It was not so much on the investigations side, but more on procedures and working on protocols with local authorities, hospitals and the like.

‘It was about trying to prevent missing persons and minimising the time spent looking for them, because every minute can be a minute of risk.’

‘I had autonomy and I really enjoyed that, which in many ways led to me being in Lochgilphead.’

He explained: ‘Through the promotion process to inspector last year, I could have sat tight in Lanarkshire to see what came up, but “shy weans get no sweeties” – so I had a look about and this job came up.

‘Never having worked in rural policing before I had to decide whether to stick to what I knew, or take a risk and broaden my horizons.

‘I spoke with Chief Inspector Marlene Baillie and she was very helpful with information about what the job would entail.

‘I went back and discussed it with my wife and the decision was made.’

The 39-year-old was brought up in the east end of Glasgow and describes himself as ‘very much an urban guy growing up’.

‘Through my mum’s side of the family we’ve got links in Campbeltown,’ he said ‘so I know I’ve visited there as a kid, but I’ve never been back as an adult.’

He added: ‘What that does mean is that I’ve got no preconceived ideas about the area. I’m taking everything and everyone at face value.’

Though fresh to the job and area,  Inspector Collins won’t be charging in with his new broom.

‘I’m wary of coming in and trying to revolutionise everything,’ he said.

‘There’s no way I know more than the folk who have worked here for ‘X’ amount of years.

‘But that’s not to say that I won’t have ideas and plans going forward. Any plans I do have, though, will need to be linked to what I’m hearing from local people, both residents and police officers.’

As he looks, listens and learns, he emphasised the importance of the bond between the police and local communities.

‘That working partnership is important,’ he said. ‘They need us, but we need the community as well.

‘I come from a community policing background, and I do care about what I do – in a tight community people will soon know if I don’t care.

‘I want our officers to be out there and visible, and in order for me to fix things I need the community to tell me what the problems are.’

Coming into the job during a pandemic, Inspector Collins sees the police role as supporting people as lockdown restrictions begin to ease.

‘As traffic begins to pick up and there are more people around I believe we should be there to look after people in the community and help them to adjust to lots of folk coming in.

‘For visitors, we need to adopt an education stance because those leaving litter behind, lighting fires and the rest of it are often doing it from a standpoint of ignorance.

‘I want people to come and visit Argyll and enjoy it, but more importantly the people who live here have to be foremost in everything we do.’

The geography of Argyll is on a different scale to that seen in Lanarkshire, and the inspector admitted he was adjusting to this aspect of rural policing. With fewer police stations and big areas to cover, he says that partnership is key.

‘I’d love to be able to click my fingers and open more police offices, but that’s not the world we live in. It’s about working smarter and in partnership with others.’

He continued: ‘I’ve spent some time getting out and about and I’m still getting used to the size of the area, but it’s gorgeous.’

Though still travelling back to Hamilton at weekends to his wife and two-year-old daughter, the plan is to move the whole family to Argyll in time.

Inspector Collins concluded: ‘I’m looking forward to getting my wife and daughter across here, because I think they’ll fall in love with Argyll just as I have.’