The new commander of Hawkesbury police, Detective Superintendent Jim Stewart, knows what it’s like to head up a big command.
A 35-year veteran of the NSW Police Service, Detective Superintendent Stewart recently completed a four-year post as commander of the 41,000 square kilometre beat that makes up Castlereagh Local Area Command in north-western NSW. Now, he is taking over the biggest geographical command in the Sydney metropolitan area.
Detective Superintendent Stewart started as Hawkesbury commander on February 5, bringing with him both rural and metropolitan experience as well as a country cop’s approachability.
“I’m very happy with the police here, I got a very warm welcome from everyone,” he said. “The senior management team briefed me very quickly … and I must say I am pretty impressed.”
Having grown up in Penrith, Detective Superintendent Stewart is very familiar with the Hawkesbury area and plans to supplement his knowledge further by getting to know local residents.
“My focus is community engagement,” he explained. “That means getting out and talking to people, getting to know who the community is, the different groups that are out there, the concerns, and … what we can do about that.
“Ninety-five per cent of the community are really good people – they want to know cops and I want them to know us so they can talk to us. It’s the five per cent I am going to concentrate on in terms of what we have got to do as police.”
Within days of starting on the job, Detective Superintendent Stewart had paid a visit to members of the CAWB encampment and was looking forward to meeting other locals through initiatives such as Coffee with a Cop. While court commitments in Walgett mean he will miss the first such event occurring under his watch next week, Detective Superintendent Stewart said the concept was an excellent way for police to engage with the community.
“Having a coffee and a talk about things is a great way to get into the community and understand some of the concerns that they have,” he said. “The police are there to make them safe. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, it’s about us protecting people. My main focus is to really work with the community to do that.”
His rural experience means Detective Superintendent Stewart understands issues such as stock theft, and he is also particularly keen to address the high incidence of road accidents in the local area.
“We have some very serious accidents here because of the speeds we do on the country roads,” he said. “I will make a concerted effort to see what we can do about that in conjunction with our Highway Patrol.”