A former firearms officer turned roads policing boss has warned against the “catastrophic” consequences of using a mobile phone while driving.
Chief Inspector Stephen Innes’s varied career has also seen him command officers at high-profile football matches.
His new role as Local Area Commander will also involve him overseeing policing across road networks in Edinburgh and the Lothians.
Speaking to the Evening News after his first month in the role, he vowed to make the area safer for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.
His main aims are to cut the number of casualties and target vehicle crime, from stolen cars to drink-driving and using a mobile while at the wheel.
Changing attitudes is also a priority for Ch Insp Innes, who says he would like to “influence the behaviour” of road users.
The 40-year-old said: “My introduction shows Police Scotland’s commitment to road policing as an integral part of our business and very much mirrors the importance that the public place on it. Every road death is a tragedy. If CID deal with a murder, it’s high profile and a lot of resources get put into that. Road policing is no different – the impact and effect it has on individual families is absolutely tragic.”
Ch Insp Innes, whose remit will also cover Fife and Forth Valley, will be supported by five police inspectors who will assist local police where required.
“There is no such thing as a low-level motor offence, and the consequences of speeding, drink or drug-driving and not wearing a seat belt or using your mobile phone while driving can be catastrophic,” he said.
In a bid to reduce road crashes and casualties and other motor crime, Ch Insp Innes pledged to take a proactive approach – by enforcing frequent patrols and ensuring high police visibility in areas on his patch, which includes trunk roads.
Stopping antisocial behaviour and combatting terrorism threats connected with the roads network are also on his list of priorities.
“It’s about our support to local policing and how we can complement that and enhance that,” said Ch Insp Innes.
“Our analysis of collisions and offences allows us to continue to actively target patrols and areas of concern. This helps us focus where the risks posed may not be immediately obvious and to challenge road users who may be unaware that their behaviour is inappropriate. Real-time education at the roadside and at point of offence being detected is clearly part of that focus.”
Ch Insp Innes will be primarily based at Fettes HQ, but it is hoped that he will also have a base in Dalkeith.
Before his role was created, there were only two roads policing commanders in Police Scotland – in Aberdeen and Glasgow.
It is hoped his new responsibilities will help plug the gap and support local officers in the Capital and Lothians.
He is confident that his varied policing career will help stand him in good stead for the demanding role, and said he could relate to the “devastating consequences” of fatal or life-changing road crashes.
Ch Insp Innes is keen to spread the message to “be safe, be seen” now the clocks have gone forward and more people will be out and about.
“It’s about attitudes and how we interact with each other on the roads,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge and the opportunity.”
FROM FOOTBALL TO DRUG GANGS
CHIEF Inspector Innes joined the Lothian and Borders force in 1996.
In 2004, he was promoted to sergeant and worked as a drugs co-ordinator and education officer at the Fettes HQ.
From 2006 to 2010, he was seconded to Paisley as Detective Inspector with the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency.
A qualified firearms and public order officer and football match commander, he aimed to disrupt and deter drug-dealing gangs.
He then worked as operational duty inspector at West Lothian.
In 2013, he set up a divisional co-ordination unit at Dalkeith as part of the Police Scotland restructure.