IanStewart 22

 

 

By Jessica Cuthbert 

“It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.” 
 
For the past seven years, Sergeant Ian Stewart has been marching to a different beat.
 
After starting his policing career in Scotland, where he served for almost six years, he applied to join the WA Police Force and joined in May 2006.
 
After the academy, Ian worked at the Fremantle Police Station, Traffic Patrol, Crash Investigations, Traffic Intelligence and Murdoch Police Station. 
 
In 2008, during a traffic stop while arresting a violent offender, Ian sustained a serious knee injury. 
 
“The offender became violent and acted irrationally and was running around all over the road. It took three of us to restrain him and in the process my knee was ripped apart, when my shin went one way and my thigh went the other,” he said. 
 
It was a long recovery and after several failed reconstructions and surgeries, he was made non-operational.
 
“I’m still here though and I decided I wasn’t going to let it stop me. I love being a police officer and I love going to work every day,” he said. 
 
“It’s interesting to think about where I would be if I didn’t get injured. My career could have taken me down a completely different path. 
 
Becoming non-operational does close a lot of doors but it also opens new ones.” 
 
He said the transition away from the frontline after the injury was a hard one, adding it took a toll on his mental health. 
 
“It affected me not being able to work on the frontline. It did take me almost two years to come to terms with it and just realise that this is what it is and to accept it,” he said. 
 
“It was a case of okay what can I do now to make a positive impact in my police career.” 
 
He never expected to become officer in charge of the WA Police Pipe Band. 
 
“After I was promoted to sergeant, somewhere, someone thought they could put me in a kilt. Why not, I already had the accent,” he laughed.
 
“It’s been a really positive seven years. When people deal with police it’s generally when they are at a point in time of their lives when they are not doing their best or when they are a victim of crime or an offender so, it’s nice to show a positive side of policing.”
 
Now away from the harsher side of policing, Ian marches to a different beat and performs at 240 events each year. 
 
He has also shared the stage with many iconic music legends.
 
Ian said with no real background in music, he was surprised to land the gig. 
 
“Although I had previous managerial and leadership experience before I joined the police and during my police career, I had no experience of managing a pipe band and a large group of highly skilled musicians,” he said. 
 
“Other than conducting powerpoint presentations and occasionally wrecking a song on karaoke, I had never performed on stage before either.” 
 
The WA Police Pipe Band formed in May 1966 and is made up of sworn officers, public servants and volunteers from all walks of life.
 
These experienced musicians have been recruited from Scotland, Northern Ireland, South Africa as well as WA and other parts of Australia. 
 
In addition to their band duties, officers assist busy frontline units two days each week, the Members perform at approximately 240 policing and community engagements each year.
 
They are also regular faces at large events including ANZAC Day ceremonies, the Christmas Pageant, Perth Royal Show, festivals and charity events.  
 
The band also performs at military and emergency service inductions, recruit graduations and police funerals for serving and retired Members. 
 
“I’ve never forgotten my own graduation in Scotland so, I really enjoy being a part of those ceremonies and the impact it has on the recruits and their families as we march onto the parade square,” Ian said.
 
“The police funerals are always sad but special to be a part of. I suppose in a way the band welcomes police officers into their career at graduation and then pay our greatest respects to their police service when we bid our friends and colleagues farewell at the very end.
 
“We also perform at approximately 40 to 60 primary schools, youth centres and aged care facilities each year to help break down barriers by using the positive power of music to proactively engage with the community and show a different side to the police uniform.” 
 
Ian said the job plays an important part in community engagement policing – a side of policing he has grown to love. 
 
“In addition to band members having and maintaining a very high degree of musical talent, we must also be very approachable while representing WA Police,” he said. 
 
“Music makes members of the community feel comfortable that they can approach us and have a chat and a laugh and hopefully that positive interaction will boost the public confidence in their police force and ensure that our diverse community feel confident enough to come to police if they ever need help.”
 
He said becoming the OIC of the band was a positive changing point in his career.
 
“Having worked in many areas over my career where you are often exposed to the worst side of the community, dealing with dangerous incidents or gruesome crime scenes, it was a nice change,” he said.
 
Engaging with the community in a positive form and putting a smile on people’s faces certainly makes the job very enjoyable and it’s great to see the positive reaction of the community when they see a police officer in a kilt and approach to speak to you.”
 
Last year, the band was invited to perform at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Sydney, where they performed four shows in front of around 200,000 people and an estimated TV and DVD audience of 100 million around the world. 
 
They also performed at the Bon Scott Tribute concert along Canning Highway earlier this month.
 
The band is currently the State and Australian Grade 1 Champions, having won the national title three times in a row. They were also the first WA Police Unit to take part in the Pride Parade while in police uniform. 
 
“In addition to the Military Tattoos, some of the other events that I been involved in that I will never forget, is meeting and performing with Andre Rieu and living legend Sir Paul McCartney when he opened his Australia Tour,” Ian said.
 
He said another fond memory was being a part of the single and video for ‘The Outback Highland Band’ with Kevin Bloody Wilson, where all money raised went to WA Police Legacy. 
 
Whilst experiencing many highlights with the band, Ian said his own personal achievement was receiving the Australian Police Medal in the 2019 Queen’s Honours List for distinguished service to the WA Police Force and community.
 
“I certainly wasn’t expecting that prestigious accolade, it was a total surprise and I am still very humbled by the award. It is an absolute honour just to be nominated in the first place but to actually receive the medal, was really special, definitely a career highlight.”
 
Just like any great performance drawing to a close, Ian’s time as OIC is coming to an end. 
 
He said it has been a privilege to work with the band for the past couple of years, adding he would miss many things about the role.
 
“Other than the band members themselves, I will definitely miss engaging with the community and our policing colleagues in such a unique way and seeing how music effects each and every one of our community,” he said.
 
“It is a great positive policing role, not only do you get firsthand experience of being an officer in charge of a department, but you also get to be a part of a team that is very special and is so well known all around the world.” 
 
He said he got a lot of enjoyment out of managing and leading people and all the challenges it came with, but said he was just one part of the team. 
 
“Although we all bring something to the table to help make the band a success, at the end of the day I am just one person within a very special team that works hard together to make sure the band is the success it is today,’” he said. 
 
Ian said as his time with the band comes to an end, he would like to acknowledge everyone who has assisted him over the years. 
 
“I couldn’t have done it without certain people and I can only hope that I have managed to make some form of positive impact on the band and the people I have met over the years,” he said. 
 
“It’s been an honour and a privilege to have been the OIC and Drum Major of the band. I wish the band and the incoming OIC all the very best of success for the future and long may the pipe band continue to serve the WA Police Force and the WA community.” 
 
So what’s next for Ian? 
 
“My frontline career path dramatically changed after my knee injury, but I will continue looking on the bright side and know that I can still try to make a positive impact within the community and within the Force,” he said.
 
“I have been lucky enough to have been selected as the new Community Engagement Coordinator role based at Perth District Office. It will be a tough role that’s for sure, but I will still do my best to help make a difference.” 
 
RBP 3187