HAZEL Hendren is making a round of tea. As the most senior ranking officer in Glasgow you expect she could ask someone to do this for her.

But the chief superintendent, who is retiring after 30 years service, is too down to earth to outsource the task.

She hands over the brew in a leopard print mug with gold handles - another sign of her unique style.

Hazel, who started out as a constable in Easterhouse, rose through the ranks to oversee policing in the Greater Glasgow division - a rise she never predicted for herself, despite an early interest in the police.

In P7 at school in Cumbernauld, Hazel won an essay writing competition - her chosen topic was vandalism - with the prize being a day at Tulliallen police training academy.

"It had a big impact on me," she said, "But at the time I thought I would never get into the police because it was too sporty for me."

READ MORE: Glasgow commander Hazel Hendren tells of policing Govanhill to her fears over murdered Karen Buckley

After school Hazel spent five years working for the Clydesdale Bank but the urge to join the police was always there.

"I didn't think I was tough enough, actually, but I needed to find something that would be much more job fulfilling and be in the community rather than sitting in an office all the time," she added.

"So I decided to give it a go and I got in - I was 21 and was probably quite quiet and shy and naive at the time."

Glasgow Times:

Shy and naive don't sound like the most likely qualities for a police officer but Hazel says she built on her confidence by building relationships.

She said: "I think that's probably what's helped me through my service.

"Even when I'm out and about now I know people at all ranks in all the offices I've worked in and they will all stand and talk to me."

Over 30 years Police Scotland has seen radical change in its structure and its ethos. Glasgow, where Hazel has spent her whole career bar two years as divisional commander for West Dunbartonshire and Argyll, has also seen radical change.

At Tulliallen Hazel was one of only three female recruits and when she first started it was mandatory for women officers to wear a skirt on the day shift.

"I turned up for my first shift at Easterhouse - with its one female toilet - with my white shirt and my cravat and my white tunic and my skirt... and then I ended up chasing a housebreaker through the back courts of Cranhill," she said.

"I had to hike my skirt up to get over these fences - I thought 'Never again'."

Hazel's approach to being one of few women on the force was to be herself. Describing the 21-year-old Hazel as "liking a laugh", she tried to put forward a more sober front before deciding that wasn't for her.

She said: "I remember once I met a young female constable and she said to me, 'You're just like a girly commander,' because I had a sparkly Swarovski pen.

"I think when I joined the police some of the females were quite masculine in their styles, which wasn't me.

"I've never felt that being a female has impacted on my career in any way and I've never felt that I achieved less or not been selected.

"I've always felt that every opportunity has been available to me, jobs and ranks.

Glasgow Times:

"I probably take a lot of it for granted because my journey's not been challenged. I don't have children either.

"So I'm aware there might be females around my age that didn't have the career I had because part time opportunities and childcare are things that didn't exist in the organisation, so I'm well aware there are others whose journey might not have been like mine."

Sparkly pens and glamorous mugs aside, Hazel has brought an empathetic and collaborative leadership style to her role, which she says compels people to want to work for her.

In May this year, when news broke of the Park Inn attack, the commander said she was overwhelmed by the number of people who got in touch and volunteered to come back from annual leave or days off to help out.

Any incident where one of their own is injured - an officer was stabbed - is difficult to process but Hazel says she has worked several cases over the years that stay with her.

She mentions, in particular, the murders of student nurse Karen Buckley in Glasgow's West End, and of six-year-old Alesha Macphail who was murdered on Bute.

Glasgow Times:

One of her most joyful cases - "one of my best moments ever" - was finding a woman with dementia who had gone missing in Shettleston.

The Glasgow bin lorry crash was another of those that "weighed heavy on my heart".

She said: "I think that's something all through your service: you're professional, you're trained, you go into auto pilot, you deal with the job.

"However I found that it still becomes emotional and you can still feel quite stricken.

"I wear my heart on my sleeve so I talk to my colleagues for support. You have your moments where you're high fiving but attached to that there can be death and destruction."

Glasgow Times:

Greater Glasgow is the largest police division in Europe and brings particular challenges with its mix of affluence and extreme poverty; urban, rural and city areas; its multiculturalism and need to police large scale events.

The area under Strathclyde Police was seven divisions with seven area commanders, giving some idea of the scale of the job.

Its variety is what makes it both professionally and personally challenging. While the bin lorry crash was a horrific incident for the city in 2014, that year also saw the Commonwealth Games with Hazel the event commander there.

The event was a huge success for the city and event commanding an element of her job Hazel has truly enjoyed. She's covered gigs such as the Stone Roses on Glasgow Green, Radio 1's Big Weekend, Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen and Avicii.

She was also one of several female Scottish match commanders. But while having a woman match commander is common in Scotland, Hazel found that it raised eyebrows with international teams.

Hazel said: "My husband thought it was an absolute waste because I'm not into football at all.

"I remember going in to do the Barcelona Celtic game and the Eufa officials and the referees were Italian.

"I took my coat off so they could see my rank and I was introduced that I would be the match commander on the day. I saw them looking like 'Where's the man?"

While event commanding was a highlight of her career, not every event came off as it was supposed to.

"It's not too often, touch wood, that things go wrong," she said, "As we have an experienced policing division.

"But I was the commander when the Red Road flats came down and two of them didn't fall. That was a lonely night."

Glasgow Times:

Hazel was also area commander for Govanhill, Scotland's most diverse area, which proved a real learning curve in developing strategies to deal with the area's complex problems.

She said: "I remember the first time I went up a close and saw mattresses and thought, 'My goodness, we need to get cleansing up to get these mattresses.'

"That was a lack of understanding on my part that sometimes people push these mattresses on to the landing so they had footspace in their flats during the day.

"I had to learn understanding of the way people live their lives."

Hazel believes the community has seen real improvement and hopes that people feel more safe thanks to the work of Police Scotland.

Her final challenge has been supporting officers through the coronavirus crisis, ensuring they work to an 'educate before enforcement' model of policing while also keeping as safe as possible.

She said: "Obviously it's been very dynamic and I've been really proud of the way our officers have adjusted to the guidelines and the legislation.

"Other organisations were working from home but for my staff when it comes to threat to life, they were performing CPR, they were going in to close areas where there were other people, they were dealing with violent offenders up close and personal so my concern was how do I keep my officers safe."

Hazel's hope had been to oversee the policing of COP26, the climate conference that was scheduled for November this year but postponed due to the pandemic.

But with it impossible to say when life will be back to some form of normal, Hazel decided now was the time to go and spend more time with her husband and family.

Covid-19 has meant her retirement celebrations are far more muted than they would have been - and her plans to travel, her real passion, are on hold.

Her career has seen her be a constable at Easterhouse, sergeant at Pollok, inspector at the Gorbals and a superintendent at Stewart Street.

She has worked in intelligence, for CID and as a staff officer for then chief constable Stephen House who gave her an instrumental role in the forming of the policing structure for Police Scotland.

Hazel said: "It's such an opportunity to retire at 50 and my husband is retired from the police too.

"I made a decision during lockdown. My husband's five children were in the garden in the paddling pool on a beautiful sunny day and I was inside on a Teams meeting.

"So many people have been in touch since I made the announcement. My tutor constable sent me a message saying, 'I always remember you for the smell of Eternity perfume'.

"It is emotional and there will be tears but I've achieved what I wanted to achieve.

"Life's precious, to have this opportunity to go now is a privilege that I will make the most of."