AFTER 30 years of service to policing in Glasgow the city's top cop has retired.

Chief Superintendent Hazel Hendren has stepped down following a career taking her from constable in Easterhouse through the ranks to divisional commander for Greater Glasgow.

Hazel today speaks exclusively to the Glasgow Times about her three decades in a rapidly changing city with the highs of commanding major events as the world watched to overseeing heartbreaking cases that shocked Glasgow.

And the 51-year-old said she hopes her impressive career will inspire a new generation of female officers to reach for the top.

She said: "I feel really privileged to have been the commander here, especially to start in Glasgow and finish here in this division.

"I think it's great for a female to have been commander and I hope that opens the road, I hope that I've been inspirational to females.

After 10 years in Easterhouse, Hazel moved around the city in various roles and ranks: sergeant at Pollok; inspector at Shettleston; chief inspector at the Gorbals; superintendent and then area commander as well as working in CID, intelligence and immigration.

There are particular cases that have left a permanent mark.

READ MORE: Hazel Hendren on the highs and lows of a 30 year police career

Hazel says she still thinks of Karen Buckley, the 24-year-old student nurse who was brutally murdered in Glasgow's West End after a night out with friends.

She said: "I was on call the night she went missing and the feeling I had, that this was not good and she was not going to turn up.

"When we arrested the person responsible we didn't have her body and I was worried that she was still alive and was tied up in a cupboard somewhere and alive.

"It turned out she wasn't and the pathologist was able to say she had been dead for some time but that whole sense of responsibility was something I have always felt."

For two years, her only posting outwith the city, Hazel was divisional commander for West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and oversaw the Alesha Macphail investigation.

Glasgow Times: Alesha Macphail Alesha Macphail

Six-year-old Alesha was taken from her bed on Bute and murdered by teenager Aaron Campbell.

Hazel said: "I was the commander for the Alesha Macphail murder and that was one that particularly I felt, it weighed heavy on my heart.

"I had to do the broadcast appeal for that and when I watch it now you can see how it impacted me as a person as well as being the commander for it.

"That's similar to the [bin lorry] incident in George Square and very recently at the Park Inn. One of my officers was stabbed at that.

"All those losses there, it shows how vulnerable life is."

From real affluence to extreme poverty; city, urban and rural areas; large scale events such as football matches and gigs; plus a wide cultural mix and its sheer size, Glasgow brings up particular policing challenges.

Greater Glasgow division is thought to be the largest in Europe and larger than several English police divisions.

When Hazel joined the then-Strathclyde Police, the area was split into seven divisions with seven area commanders.

READ MORE: Hazel Hendren on the highs and lows of a 30 year police career

But the merger of the forces in 2013 to form Police Scotland - of which Hazel was an integral part - created one division with Glasgow, East Dunbartonshire and East Renfrewshire.

Glasgow Times:  Karen Buckley Karen Buckley

Hazel gained experience of the city's diversity when she began working from Gorbals police office in 2013 and was area commander for multicultural Govanhill.

She said: "I remember when I went there to be area commander and walking up Allison Street and thinking about the real community feel there, there was a real buzz about it, it wasn't as anonymous as other parts of Glasgow.

"But I remember an older woman saying 'I don't go out after 5pm because of the people hanging about,' and I remember this sense of responsibility to make sure people feel safe here.

"It's very rarely that issues come to light and I think people live there differently now.

"Govanhill now, I would like to think, is where people have become integrated into society."

Hazel's final challenge has been to lead the city's police as divisional commander through a global pandemic and she says she is "proud" of how the force has coped.

Hazel believes the city has changed for the better over the past 30 years and she is handing over a "safe" city to her replacement, Chief Superintendent Mark Sutherland.

She said: "When you look at the stats, Glasgow is a safe city. I'm really proud of Glasgow, this is the top division.

Glasgow Times: Chief Superintendent Mark SutherlandChief Superintendent Mark Sutherland

"It's the right time to go but there will be tears."