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Meet one of the most celebrated leaders of the Scottish Business Resilience Centre, and of Police Scotland, Ian Stephen, Police Inspector and Head of Business Resilience. He is not only a trailblazer in the Scottish business crime prevention area, but is also a well-known name in the Scottish Police Force for being a champion in his 30 years of Service, and has set a great example with his journey for the next generation of police professionals.

Ian has very recently retired from the Police Force, Scotland, and is currently paving his way towards new adventures. Read on to find out about Ian’s motivation to encourage preventative policing practices for your organisation, and his journey as an cop and a business resilience leader.

Question: Can you tell us about our background and experience with the Police and your role with SBRC?

I’ve only just finished 30 years’ of service in the Police and the journey seems nothing less than incredible! I started my Police career in Northumbria Police where I spent 10 years working in Sunderland, Newcastle and Armed Policing, prior to transferring back north to Lothian and Borders Police where I worked in a variety of departments including the Stolen Vehicle Squad and Operational Planning.

I also had the opportunity to work on the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow followed by stints in Fife and at the Scottish Police College, before I joined the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC) in December 2019 as the Head of Business Resilience.

Here’s a bit more background into my career path with the Police and how I found my way to collaborative working in preventative policing with my role in SBRC.

In Edinburgh, I worked at various stations in the city before I received my first promoted post at the control room in Leith. After a brief return to frontline policing, I was seconded to Edinburgh City Council to help them work on a city center evacuation plan. This was a really interesting piece of work as it is a requirement under the Civil Contingencies Act for the city to have a plan in place. I thoroughly enjoyed that, and learned a lot about collaborative working there.

Following stints in the Stolen Vehicle Squad and Operational Planning, I was appointed as the Staff Officer for the Commonwealth Games where I was closely involved in the planning and the delivery of the 2014 Games in Glasgow, which again was really stimulating because of the profile of the worldwide event being so massive, and in terms of the global audience. My most recent experience of a major event was COP26, which, although was a completely different role from running and staging a logistics post, was indeed very meaningful and highly rewarding.

It wasn’t until I became an inspector that I received my first community posting and that is how I got truly involved with preventative policing. I spent two years working as a Community Inspector in Fife, where I learned a huge amount on the ground about community work. Following this role, I worked with the Scottish Police College for a short duration, before I joined the SBRC in December 2019 where my work primarily revolved around business crime prevention.

The main difference I feel between my time in the police and my time at SBRC, was that working after a crime can often be as frustrating as it is fulfilling. However, at SBRC, I found myself working to prevent crime, rather than pick up the pieces after a committed crime, that enforces prevention of a crime from taking place in the first place. My work at SBRC, including my team of five seconded officers, was mainly teaching businesses to operate safely, no matter their size, which is essential to creating a more resilient, and safer Scotland for businesses to flourish. I’m incredibly proud to have had the opportunity to be a part of SBRC. Needless to say, the ongoing collaboration between the Police and SBRC strengthens the ability for us all to protect Scottish organisations from private, public and third sector, and make Scotland a more resilient and safer place to live and work.

Question: Tell us one of the key challenges you shared in the past few years

From an SBRC point of view, the biggest challenge was the transition to the digital working lifestyle during the pandemic, as many others have experienced. For someone who is not very well-versed with the world of computers, it was a challenging task for me and in addition to that it is worth mentioning that as a Police official you are used to getting out and about and provide the full service on behalf of SBRC, in person. Along the way, I did overcome it and it was easy because of how smoothly SBRC transitioned to online working and our work, and collaboration flourished between traditional business resilience and cyber security. I received ample help from my technically-savvy colleagues to ensure our services were perfectly delivered to the community even when there was some initial hesitation to working remotely, we manage to get the work done efficiently.

From a policing point of view, I did encounter the additional issue of losing staff members during COVID times. This was particularly challenging at the start as at certain points I was the only seconded officer at SBRC, interacting with the business community regarding business resilience.

Eventually, I did regain a team of five seconded Police officers who work on various portfolios such as retail, tourism, finance, construction, manufacturing, transport, sports and education. We continually endeavour to provide our business resilience services across Scotland and if you want to know more, click here.

Question: Can you tell us a bit more about traditional business resilience work at SBRC?

At the Scottish Business Resilience Centre, we have a team of experts, in particular our embedded police team, who work across all aspects of business resilience, to help organisations identify and avoid incidents that could compromise the safety of staff, customers or business activities.

As mentioned above, the three portfolios we have been working on are:

  • Retail, Tourism and Finance
  • Construction, Manufacturing and Transport
  • Sport, Leisure and Education

We’re able to receive additional support from colleagues in the Fire and Ambulance Services so we can provide a full range of ‘‘blue light’’ inputs advice and training that are designed to mitigate against the threat of crime the disruption and loss that can follows it.

Besides supporting the business community, we also deliver the highly regarded Scottish Business Resilience Awards by introducing it to the right communities, and the organisation of it.

We work on delivering a series of presentations around crime prevention which include advice on lone working, personal safety, incident management, human trafficking and child sexual exploitation among others.

Question: What is your message for aspiring and police folk or those who are considering to join the police?

The key message here I’d say is to stay positive. If you’re considering joining the police, you’re in for an adventure of a lifetime. They don’t call it a job, they call it a way of life, and quite literally it is that! It’s truly unique. It’s so massively rewarding, and challenging and frustrating at the same time. I have spent three decades of my life working as a Police Officer and if you ask me, will I join again, absolutely yes! It’s a brilliant career and so many different avenues within policing that you can explore over time.

I never once thought as a boy growing up in a secluded rural area, I would end up walking about Newcastle area armed to the teeth and driving an armed response car to all kinds of emergencies and experiencing that adrenaline rush. I’m very lucky I got that, and I am equally as happy that I got to finish my service here at SBRC, working on preventative policing in a partnership role, which is something that I have really loved, and enjoyed and learned from every minute of it.

Not all Police officers spend their entire lifetime catching the bad guys, some do that and some do different things, such as preventative work. In my case, it is only when I was later on in my career that I realised and recognised the true value of preventing a crime rather than dealing with criminality after the event.

It is where my career path led me to when I joined SBRC over two years ago and I have no regrets. However, I do want to mention I wish I had more exposure to the preventative side earlier in my service so I could have fully immersed in it. My advice would be to always look out for opportunities and learn more about preventative work as it’s very rewarding.

About Ian

Ian worked as the Head of business resilience at SBRC for two years before he retired from the Police force in April 2022. He started his career in Northumbria Police where he spent 10 years working in Sunderland, Newcastle and Armed Policing prior to transferring back north to Lothian and Borders Police where he worked in a variety of departments including the Stolen Vehicle Squad and Operational Planning.

Ian then worked on the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow followed by stints in Fife and at the Scottish Police College before he joining SBRC in December 2019. Outside of work Ian lives with his partner Louisa, has 3 children and a spaniel and is a keen motorcyclist and golfer.

Ian on his retirement day at the SBRC office in Linlithgow with his team of seconded officers