From studying an English Literature degree in York to becoming a Sergeant in the Royal Gibraltar Police, Stewart Finegan explains how he found himself policing on the Rock.
It was at a family wedding in London back in March 2006 where Stewart first met his Gibraltarian wife.
The pair hit it off and less than a year later he had quit his job as a precision engineer in Tameside, Greater Manchester, to follow her back to the Rock at the age of 27.
“I didn’t even own a passport at the time; I had to get one to start visiting. Despite the fact that I am not built for hot weather, I loved Gibraltar. Pretty much from the first time I came here, I thought this is where I’m going to settle down,” said the 43-year-old dad of three.
Born in Mossley, on the western edge of Saddleworth Moor, Stewart started a degree in English Literature at the University of York, but left the course early after deciding it wasn’t for him. From there he started work labouring on various building sites, before settling in a precision engineering job at a company in his home town.
So how did Stewart end up working for the Royal Gibraltar Police?
He explained: “I thought, I’m settling down now and I’d better do something that I can be proud of. In my previous job I wasn’t getting an enormous amount of satisfaction and I was just plodding along and existing.”
In 2007, you could only join the RGP if you were local, or a British citizen who had lived on the Rock for at least three years. So, Stewart waited three years before applying.
In October 2010 Stewart started his Training School and Passed Out in March 2011, before joining Green Shift (now Response Team 2) as a Recruit Police Officer.
He said: “I enjoyed the training school but hated shift at first. I found it quite overwhelming for the first few months, but I had a good shift and I started to find my feet and get a bit more settled and comfortable with the role.
“I wasn’t quite a church mouse when I started, but I wasn’t as vocal as I am now. When you start, you don’t know anything, even if you think you do. So I kept my eyes and ears open and my mouth shut unless I had something to say. There’s nothing worse than somebody joining the shift who thinks they know it all.”
During his near 13-year-career, Stewart worked in the Response Teams, Community Policing and the Criminal Investigation Department, after which he was promoted to Sergeant in 2016.
As a Sergeant, he returned to Response Team, then later Drug Squad and CID, before taking up his current role in as Sergeant for Recruitment, Training and Performance.
Asked whether he had any career highlights, he said: “One of the best appraisals I received was from a Sergeant in Neighbourhood Policing; ‘Despite the officer’s strong northern accent, he is nevertheless an effective communicator.’ It’s the best backhanded compliment I’ve ever received. Glorious.
“I don’t think my accent’s that bad; it's not impenetrable. It’s just very distinct. I think most people automatically know who it is when I ring them up, without me having to say.”
He went on to talk about enjoying his time as a detective in CID “immensely.”
“It was an extraordinarily busy period and we dealt with some very unpleasant matters, especially the murder-suicide at Boschetti’s Steps, but we had a great team and everyone was motivated.
“We always had good working relationships with the other Crime Division departments such as Safeguarding and Drug Squad, which continue to this day. It’s not uncommon for each department to help each other out. If we had a particularly big job, it was all hands on deck.”
One of his highlights in CID was participating in an interview in which a suspect admitted to 14 separate burglaries. The suspect’s lawyer was also sitting in the interview.
“We got dragged up to see the Superintendent afterwards, who said he couldn't be happier with us because we were getting results.”
Another highlight of his career has been developing officers on the Response Teams.
“I honestly enjoy developing officers; even prior to the role I’m in now. I mean, obviously there's got to be some sort of give and take. You’re going to struggle to develop or motivate an officer who doesn't want to be developed or motivated. I flatter myself to say that I can motivate officers whilst also maintaining discipline.”
And when asked what was the best thing about being a police officer, he said: “For me, having a sense of purpose. Doing the roles that I’ve done has made me proud. I’m proud to wear the uniform.”
And the worst thing about being a police officer?
He explained: “The stress that it puts on family life. When I started in CID my son was five. Whilst I’ve tried to avoid missing out on birthdays like so many officers have in the past, there's been plenty of occasions where I've missed out on being there for my lad and my missus at home. She’s had to pick up a lot of slack over the years and I’m eternally grateful to her.
“In my first month in CID, I didn't leave the office earlier than about 7 – 8pm. There was one day when I when I didn't exactly leave on time, but I went to leave at 5pm. I was asked where I was going. I had to explain that I hadn’t seen my lad for three weeks — by the time I would come home he was always in bed.
“I think there was a much greater expectation in years gone by to put the job before family and just deal with all the accompanying problems that that causes; divorces, this that and the other. But thankfully we’ve moved away from that now in the RGP.”
When he’s not busy with the Recruit school, Stewart spends his spare time “reading, watching the same films over and over again and listening to music that nobody else likes.”
He continued: “I’m a fan of horror films. I tend to watch the same half dozen John Carpenter films over and over.
“I like a good spooky yarn. Something atmospheric. I’m a little squeamish when it comes to modern horror films. I don't like blood and gore for the sake of it. I’ve had plenty of that in the job, thank you very much.”
Stewart was asked if he would recommend a career in the police to those thinking of joining the RGP in the next recruitment drive.
“I would, but think long and hard about it. It’s can be a taxing job, mentally and physically. Not everyone can do it and there’s no shame in the fact that not everyone can do it. It’s not a job for everybody. But saying that, anyone can do it if they put in the required effort, regardless of their background. If you have the right character, then it’s certainly a worthwhile career.”
Looking forward, where does Stewart see his career going?
“I’ve got 12 years left. I believe there’s scope for me to carry on progressing. But as it stands, I’m really enjoying my role. I was sure I’d enjoy it, but not as much as I am.
“There’s a lot of work to be done in the Recruitment, Training and Performance department and I’m excited to be part of it. Training recruits is only one aspect of the role. I didn’t participate in the recruitment drive last year, so this will be the first time that I’m involved in the process from the very start. I’d like to do more than one Training School, so let’s see where I end up.”
The RGP are recruiting soon. If you want to register your interest, visit: www.police.gi/information/career-opportunities