At the age of 25 Murray Haston applied for Tayside Police – a decision which would begin a 30-year career keeping Dundee’s streets safe.
The former quantity surveyor had fallen for his office secretary, Fiona, and realising his office wage wouldn’t pay for a wedding and new house, jumped career.
And so, in December 1990, newly engaged Murray headed to Baluniefield where he began his training for what was then known as Tayside Police.
After spending eight weeks in “police college”, which Murray describes as like being back at school, he was posted to the streets of Pitlochry.
While some may see this as a sleepy town it was an eye opening experience for the new copper.
He said: “My mum wasn’t keen on me joining as she thought I would get hurt, however, I am lucky to say I was never assaulted in my 30 year career.
“Before joining the police I had worked in offices, pubs and building sites. I thought I had seen it all and you never really expect much to happen in a place like Pitlochry, however it really opened my eyes to the ways in which people live.
“It was nothing compared to when I was posted back in Dundee though, in my home town.”
After three years in Pitlochry, Murray came back to Dundee where he was first based in the City Centre Office before being posted to Lochee where he remembers the “fantastic” people he worked with.
He was also awarded two Chief Constable Commendations for bravery at the scenes of two separate fires in Charleston during his time there.
Just before the millennium Murray became part of the CID unit where he gained experience in investigating serious crime and anti-drugs operations, surveillance and informant handling. During this period he also trained as a Firearms Officer and as a Crime Scene Manager.
Five years later, in a bid to develop his career Murray went back on to the streets.
He added: “Although I absolutely loved my time in the CID there was a sort of pecking order in those days so I thought if I wanted to go up the ranks so to speak then I needed to get noticed.
“I went back to uniform policing and covered a lot of back shifts and night shifts. As you can imagine, when officers take a holiday it is usually when they are scheduled for night shifts. It was hard going with a young family at home but I wanted to further my career and it was a great way to do it.”
His hard work paid off and after a stint in the Hilltown he moved on to acting Sergeant duties at Maryfield, Downfield and Longhaugh, effectively completing the full set of the Dundee sections.
In 2008 he was promoted to Sergeant at Carnoustie Police Station.
A big football fan, Murray was encouraged to watch the games at Dens Park from a young age as by that time his grandfather, and Dundee United legend, Jerry Kerr, had moved over to the Dark Blues.
It is only fitting then that a match being played between his favourite team and Millwall FC would be the first, and only, time in his career Murray used his baton.
He said: “Millwall FC fans are notorious for being trouble makers – they are deemed as one of the hardest crews in Europe – and in 2007 they were visiting Dundee FC for a pre-season friendly.
“Obviously, because of their notoriety we had a briefing before the match about how we were going to handle the crowds if it all kicked off. The inspector said that they were using a special way of dealing with the crowds as they couldn’t take any chances.
“Of course, someone asked what the plan was, and he said ‘I am going to put Murray and Gemma in a van’.
“She was a lovely, lovely girl but she was about two foot nothing. I think she came up to my stomach. She was a very capable police officer, fantastic police officer actually but we just laughed out loud as soon as we heard that was the plan to curb the toughest football casuals in Europe.
“Of course the Millwall fans just went mental, so me and my crowd were out chasing them round the streets and that’s the first time I had drawn my baton. I actually drew it three times that day but I have never had to use it again since. But that’s Millwall fans for you.
“I think if they came up to visit again they would definitely have learned a thing or two and be a bit more prepared.”
By 2011 more change was on the horizon for Murray as he became the Custody Sergeant based within Division Headquarters at West Bell Street, however it wasn’t the change he was hoping for at first.
“After spending three and a half years based in Carnoustie I really wanted to get back to Dundee. At this time my wife was also working with the police force in an office role at the headquarters and on one of my days off I went to pick her up, but after waiting a while and no sign of her I went inside to chase her up,” he said.
“When I walked in the inspector was standing and when I was chatting away he asked how I fancied a job in custody. I told him I was keen to get back to Dundee but didn’t fancy custody. The very next day though I was phoned at home to say my transfer to Dundee was on and when I asked where I was going they said ‘you’re going to custody’. So I blame my wife for that one.
“I went in to the job thinking I would spend six months or so as custody sergeant but I ended up staying there for eight and a half years.
“It was a fear of the unknown and all the years I grew up in the police the charge room sergeant knew everything; if you ever had any issues you went to them. Even your own gaffers half the time would tell you to go to them but suddenly it was me and I had to know everything.
“There was a bit of pressure there and I have to say half the time I never knew what I was talking about but you can’t let the young ones know that.
“I loved every single minute of my time there and those who work in custody really do work in the highest risk area. I don’t think they get the recognition they deserve.”
In December 2019 Murray made his final change going to an office-based role for his last few months in service before retiring on December 16.
He said: “I met some incredible folk throughout my career, including those I booked in to custody. I would even walk around the town on my days off and people would be introducing me to their wives as the sergeant who locked them up last week.
“The reaction to my retirement has been absolutely overwhelming and I am getting quite emotional thinking about it. The amount of people who have taken the time to wish me well has been unbelievable.
“I will miss the job and I will really miss the people and will hopefully be able to get them out for some leaving drinks next year. They are all conspiring that I engineered Covid-19 to get out of buying them all drinks.”
Murray is now looking forward to spending more time with his wife Fiona and three children Ben, Daniel and Sarah, along with longer walks with his dog Jess. He also hopes to get back to the games and continue following his beloved Dundee Football Club.