Joseph Simpson

Joseph Simpson

Sir Joseph Simpson KBE KPFSM (26 June 1909 – 20 March 1968), commonly known as Joe Simpson to his men, was Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, the head of the London Metropolitan Police, from 1958 to 1968. He was the first Commissioner who began his police career as an ordinary Constable.

Simpson was born in Dawley, Shropshire"Metropolitan Police Chief: Deputy to Succeed Sir J. Nott-Bower", "The Times", 30 May 1958] and educated at Ashdown House and Oundle School, where he was captain of rugby football and athletics and was Public Schools Champion in long jump in 1927 and 1928, when he set a public school record, and also in 440 yards in 1928. He then went on to Manchester University College of Technology. He represented the university at rugby and athletics and was World's University Champion in the 400 metre hurdles in 1930. He also played cricket and was a good rifle shot (as Commissioner he was a great supporter of sport in the police), [ "The Times", 12 April 1934 ] . In his early sporting career he won medals and other trophies with The London Athletic Club, The Birchfield Harriers and the Keswick Athletic Club; while in Lincoln and later as Chief Constable of Surrey, he was an active member and medal-winner of Lincoln County Rifle Club, The Surrey County Small Bore Rifle Association, Affiliated Rifle Association, and the National Short Range Rifle League (defunct), based at Bisley and elsewhere. [Medals and other trophies held in family archive] After working in the cotton industry for a short period he joined the Metropolitan Police in 1931 and was posted to "X" Division (Wembley), and later to "E" Division (Bow Street). In 1934 he was selected by competitive examination to attend the first course of thirty students at Hendon Police College, beginning the course on 10 May, ["Metropolitan Police College", "The Times", 12 April 1934] and was promoted to Acting Station Inspector on graduation at the top of his class in 1936, when he became an instructor at the college. ["Police College Students to Begin Duty", "The Times", 23 May 1936]

In 1937, Simpson was called to the Bar by Gray's Inn. In July the same year he left the Metropolitan Police to become Assistant Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Constabulary. [Official Appointments and Notices, "The Times", 5 July 1937] In 1939 he was seconded to the Regional Commissioner's Offices for Nottinghamshire and then for Cambridgeshire and in 1943 was appointed Chief Constable of Northumberland Constabulary. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1946 New Year Honours for his services to civil defence. [LondonGazette|issue=37412|supp=yes|startpage=284|date=28 December 1945|accessdate=2007-12-17] He transferred as Chief Constable to Surrey Constabulary later in 1946. He was awarded the King's Police and Fire Services Medal in the 1952 New Year Honours. [LondonGazette|issue=39421|supp=yes|startpage=34|date=28 December 1951|accessdate=2007-12-17]

On 1 March 1956, Simpson rejoined the Metropolitan Police as Assistant Commissioner "B", in charge of traffic policing. [LondonGazette|issue=40726|startpage=1375|date=6 March 1956|accessdate=2007-12-17] During this appointment he visited USA and Canada, with the Transport Minister Ernest Marples who subsequently introduced traffic meters in London. On 20 January 1957 he was appointed Deputy Commissioner, ["Metropolitan Police Appointments", "The Times", 12 November 1956] and on 1 September 1958 he became Commissioner. [LondonGazette|issue=41488|startpage=5413|date=2 September 1958|accessdate=2007-12-17] He was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in the 1959 New Year Honours. [LondonGazette|issue=41589|supp=yes|startpage=10|date=30 December 1958|accessdate=2007-12-17] He was elected Vice-president of The Association of Chief Police Officers of England and Wales (ACPO) in 1966 and President in 1967. In 1963 He was elected President of the Medico-Legal Society for two years. He was Vice-patron of the Amateur Athletic Association and Vice-president of the Middlesex RFU. ["A Policeman's Policeman", "The Job - (Metropolitan Police Newspaper)", 29 March 1968]

Simpson was a fair and tolerant man, but also expected the same high standards of others that he set for himself and was a great believer in discipline. He believed in a more equal police force, where senior officers and lower ranks had a closer relationship. This was somewhat marred by the promotion of fellow Hendon graduates as Deputy Commissioner and all four Assistant Commissioners (the short-lived Hendon experiment never having been popular with most officers), although actually these appointments were made by the Crown on the advice of the Home Secretary. He strove, with some success, to improve the deteriorating relationship between the police and the public and encouraged the public to "have a go" against crime (although he did issue a warning against tackling armed criminals). He was an enthusiastic supporter of crime prevention and the use of police dogs, and also greatly expanded the Police Cadets. He established the Obscene Publications Squad, Drugs Squad (1963), Special Patrol Group (1961), Art Squad (1967), and Antiques and Philately Squad (1967), laid the foundations for the Scenes of Crime Branch established shortly after his death, and greatly expanded the Flying Squad. He introduced personal radios and the Unit Beat system (1967), whereby the use of panda cars was greatly expanded for patrol purposes. He reorganised the Metropolitan Special Constabulary to integrate them more into the divisions. He introduced traffic wardens and fixed penalty parking fines.

He married Elizabeth May Bowler in 1936. They had two sons, the elder of whom, Mark, served for some four years in the British South Africa Police in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe); he resigned in 1963 to avoid being transferred from the Criminal Investigation Department back to the uniformed branch. Some inaccurate press reports say he was dismissed ["Police Chief's Son Dismissed", "The Times", 15 July 1963] but his BSAP Record of Service rates his conduct as having been 'very good'. [ Record of Service (Discharge Certificate dated 28 June 1963); Family archives. ] Mark Simpson then served briefly in the Rhodesian Army and the Department of Internal Affairs from which he resigned [Letter of acceptance of resignation signed by Neal Robertson, Provincial Commissioner held in family archives dated 25 March 1964 and see ] in 1964 because of imminent political change (UDI). He later served for thirty-one years in the Hong Kong Police/Royal Hong Kong Police. The younger son, Ben, was appointed JP for Gloucestershire in 1971, later transferring to Oxfordshire; he was appointed a Magistrate member of Thames Valley Police Authority in 1991.

Simpson was expected by some to retire in 1964, but stayed in office. He died suddenly at his home in Roehampton four years later at the age of 58, his early death probably brought on by stress caused by overwork. His funeral was held with full honours at Westminster Abbey on 29 March 1968, ["Abbey funeral", "The Times", 22 March 1968] with all Metropolitan Police officers who were able to do so observing a one minute's silence at 11am. ["Sir Joseph Simpson", "The Times", 27 March 1968] . On 4 June 1970 a memorial service was held in the Crypt of St Paul's Cathedral where a memorial plaque in the Chapel, comprising a profiled head in bass-relief, [ [ Image on Art & Architecture, web site of the Courtauld Institute of Art (unattributed)] . Retrieved 2008-02-04] by John Skelton [ [ John Skelton, sculptor and lettercutter 1923 - 1999] . Retrieved 2008-02-04] was unveiled by James Callaghan, then Home Secretary. ["A Leader by example", "The Job - (Metropolitan Police Newspaper)", 29 June 1970]



*Obituary, "The Times", 21 March 1968
*Martin Fido and Keith Skinner, "The Official Encyclopedia of Scotland Yard", London, 1999

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