Borders new police chief reveals the huge influence her parents have had on her life of public service

The Borders new police chief has revealed how she draws inspiration from her missionary parents as she sets about serving the region’s public.

By Paul Kelly
Tuesday, 14th December 2021, 8:40 am
New Divisional Commander Catriona Paton.
New Divisional Commander Catriona Paton.

Catriona Paton took up her role as Divisional Commander for Lothians and Scottish Borders Division on Monday, November 29.

It was a tough baptism, coming the weekend after Storm Arwen had wreaked havoc in the region.

Her latest role follows 32 years in the force and she has expressed her intention of being a visible and recognisable presence in the Borders.

Rough Diamond. The life story of Bill Gilvear.

A mum two boys, aged 19 and 23, Cdr Paton had her values forged at an early age by her parents, Bill and Margaret Gilvear.

Her late father was a renowned Glasgow-raised evangelical preacher who had spent his early life as a gangland member in the city.

Cdr Paton admitted that when she first informed him of her intention to join the force at the tender age of 16 he was shocked and apprehensive.

"My dad just about died a death at the thought of his wee girl joining the police back in 1989. His catchphrase to me then was: ‘why on earth are you joining the police? You cry when Lassie doesn’t come home.’ But he was super proud.”

Her parents example set the template for the new divisional commander’s life of service.

“Why did I ever join policing? My answer is that my mum and dad were missionaries in Congo in Africa and so for me growing up at an early age actively caring wasn’t just important – it was a way of life. They were trying to deal with poverty and health issues and everything else in Congo. Well, did they achieve that? There is still poverty and health issues in Congo, of course, but does that mean what they did wasn’t effective?

"My reality of their experiences and learning from others about the impact they had on individual lives tells me they had a massive impact because they massively transformed people’s lives they interacted with.

"Will I achieve all of our priorities? Those priorities are to protect the public, to reduce violent crime, to reduce acquisitive crime, to improve road safety and tackle serious and organised crimes – am I going to do that in its entirety? Of course not. What I will be seeking to achieve in the time here is that with every interaction I have, and that my team have, that we leave a positive interaction with people.

"My parents whole life was dedicated to service and that came with sacrifice and that was a huge influencing factor for me because being in the police is a call to service and it does come with sacrifice and after 32 years, particularly as a mum, it has involved a lot of sacrifice over the years, but if you really believe, and you have that optimism and hope, then it does transform lives.”

Cdr Paton, who has already been to the Borders for a meeting with the local authority’s chief executive Netta Meadows, is not looking to have one permanent geographical base.

"We have four local authorities to cover and I’ll be based all over. Today I’m in Livingston but I’ve also worked out of Dalkeith and I’ve been down to the Borders to meet the council’s chief executive there. I’m not setting myself any particular base, I’ll be where I’m needed.”

The new commander is focused on providing a ‘ripple effect’ that will create a positive impact for all the communities she serves.

"We’re not an infinite resource and I have to manage expectations but I always talk about the ripple effect. You can see and feel the ripple from the stones going into the water, even though you may not have seen the actual stone being thrown in the water. Even though you may not physically see me as often as you would like what I would want is that they still see and feel the ripple effect of my presence. That I am there, that I am listening and focused on doing the best for all the communities.”

Positive mental health is a topic the region’s new police chief is passionate about, and she has presented addresses on issues surrounding suicide prevention.

She’s also a firm believe in having a balanced work-home life.

“My passion outwith policing is focused on family and friends and exercise, probably in that order. I try to make sure that I make time for the people who are important in my life.

"Exercise to me is vitally important to mental health. It is something I am massively passionate about. How do we create more resilient individuals that make the best versions of themselves? Sometimes that means acknowledging the negatives in life because we don’t live in a perfect world and people let us down, but I’m a firm believer that we’ve all got the capacity to do more to try and support each other through the challenges we face.”

Despite several serious issues that have damaged police trust among the public in other parts of the UK, Cdr Paton believes that trust in Police Scotland remains high.

"In Scotland we are in a really unique position in terms of the level of support we have from the community and one we don’t take for granted, but one that is invaluable to us. I think we have seen that even in terms of response to the coronavirus and the challenging situations officers find themselves in trying to apply guidance and regulations and a host of other things. Having been involved in roles that have taken me across UK policing and other areas, I can say with all honesty that is a unique position we have.”