THIRTY years in any job is quite an achievement but as a police officer Ronnie Richardson has had more expected of him than most and few would question his commitment and dedication to the role..
It’s fitting that having been brought up in the town Ronnie is finishing his policing duties in Duns, a place he told ‘Life’ he was exceedingly proud to serve.
After completing his police training Ronnie moved to Galashiels and then onto Selkirk and Melrose, where he served for three years but for the past 23 years- “August 23 1989” he recalled exactly- he has been plodding the beat on home turf, something which he said gave him plenty of job satisfaction.
“As soon as I passed my training and got my first post I knew I’d be in it for the long haul,” he explained.
“It was always going to be the full 30 years for me. As long as I was fit and well there was no danger of me ducking out early or changing career.
“There’d be no other occupation that would give me the same job satisfaction as I’ve got from this.
“Before I joined up with the police I used to drive a van for a packaging company. And don’t get me wrong it was nice to get out and meet people but there was never much variety in my work.
“My whole reason for going into the police was that I wanted to do something constructive and put something back into society.”
As well as serving as a police constable and latterly a Community Police Officer, Ronnie is also a member of Berwickshire Community Safety Panel, encompassing the Waste Of Our Footpaths (WOOF) scheme and he said he has no plans to step down just yet.
“I would say I’ve been luckier than most during my time as a Community Police Officer as I’ve been able to come home to my roots to do my job,” he said proudly.
“I’m working in my home town, amongst my community and I’ve enjoyed good working relationships with representatives from a number of partner agencies including Berwickshire Housing Association, the health board, Scottish Borders Council and local Neighbourhood Watch groups and community councils.
“There is a lot of hard work that goes on outwith the public gaze and a lot of hard working people who don’t always get the recognition they deserve.”
Ronnie admitted that there have been a few hairy moments during his time with Lothian and Borders police and some upsetting ones but added that in times of trouble he could always rely on colleagues for support.
“Yes I have got into a few scenarios where people have been angry and wanting a fight but that’s when your inter-personal skills come into play and your ability to diffuse a situation.
“There are times when you see things and have to do things that aren’t nice like seeing families suffering or having to tell them bad news.
“Fortunately there are stress briefs after any tragic events and there are guys around you that have been in your shoes and know how you’re feeling.
“You have to learn to switch off sometimes but it can be hard. For instance there was a time when I was driving into Berwick on a Thursday night to get some shopping in when a pretty serious road accident happened right in front of me near East Ord.
“Someone was trapped in their vehicle and my instincts kicked in almost immediately. Before I knew it I was out of my car ordering people about and stopping traffic; it’s just second nature.”
Replaying his long career is his mind, Ronnie was able to recall a few funnier moments of his time on the beat, one of them which landed him in deep water quite literally.
“Probably the funniest incident involved me pursuing a suspect in a local village which I won’t name but I will say it’s got a river running through it.
“I was so determined to catch him that I went into the river but chose a part that was a bit too deep and ended up up to my neck in water. I caught him in the end though.
“There’s been a good few characters through the police station doors over the years, some more often than others but other the people have changed and the technology has changed - I remember a time when all you had to do when you arrested someone was bring them in and write their name in a journal.
“However, one thing that hasn’t changed and never will change is the core of police work.”
During Ronnie’s time with the police numerous laws and legislation have come into force and policing itself will undergo a dramatic transformation next year when all eight of Scotland’s forces are streamlined.
But Ronnie said although he understood people’s concerns about any possible repercussions for local policing, he believed residents shouldn’t notice any changes for the worst.
“The public in Berwickshire and throughout the whole Lothian and Borders force area has always enjoyed a high standard of policing and it’s my belief that they always will.
“Crime detection rates are consistently high and that won’t change because of centralisation.
“People have asked me at a number of community council meetings about how it will change things and my answer has always been that it won’t; there will always be the same community based approach.”
Now he’s getting ready to down his radio and hang up his helmet for the last time, Ronnie is looking forward to having more time to devote to his main hobby, photography, but that’s not to say he won’t have a heavy heart when it comes to saying goodbye to the colleagues he’s leaving behind.
“For me that chapter is my life is now closing and I’m ready to open another.
“But I’m sure I’ll have a lump in my throat when I leave the station for the last time. I’ll miss the camaraderie the most.
And Ronnie’s colleagues will most certainly miss having him about the place with Mandy Paterson commenting: “I’ve had 20 years with Ronnie and he’s been great to work alongside. I’ve been joking about having to get the Kleenex out but I think I might!
“Ronnie’s a great character; he’s got so much local knowledge and he’ll be a really big miss.