John Alderson

Have your say

John Alderson, Chief Constable and scholar.

JOHN Alderson was a distinguished policeman from South Yorkshire who rose rapidly through the ranks to become both a leading Chief Constable and a thoughtful academic.

He died last week, aged 89 years old.

A passionate advocate of community policing long before it became politically en vogue, he abhorred the use of measures such as rubber bullets and tear gas - advocating instead improving relations between police, social workers, teachers and other key groups alongside the local population.

“What I try to do is build relationships between the police and the public,” he said, shortly after his retirement in 1982 after almost a decade in charge of Devon and Cornwall Police.

“It is no answer to resort to brute force to control people.”

John Cottingham Alderson was born in Barnsley on May 28, 1922, and spent his formative years growing up in the South Yorkshire town.

At he age of 19 he joined the Army Physical Training Corps, attaining the rank of Warrant Officer during wartime service in North Africa and Italy.

He joined the West Riding Constabulary immediately following his discharge from the army in 1946. His sparkling talents were immediately clear for all to see.

Having been heavyweight boxing champion on his recruit training scheme, he undertook courses at the Police College in Bramshill and was promoted to Inspector at the age of just 33, following the minimum statutory term of service.

He had married in 1948, to Irene Macmillan Stirling, with whom he had one son.

A deep thinker with impeccable manners, Alderson studied law in his spare time and was called to the Bar in 1956. The following years, still policing in West Yorkshire, saw a further series of promotions to chief inspector, superintendent and then sub-divisional commander.

In 1963 he was selected for a prestigious year-long Senior Command course, again at Bramshill, after which his police career would take him away permanently from the region for the first time. He was made Deputy Chief Constable of Dorset Police, at just 41 years old.

His career continued to soar. Three years later he was a Deputy Commander of the Metropolitan Police; by 1968 he was Deputy Assistant Commissioner.

In 1970 he returned to Bramshill, this time as Commandment of the whole Police College.

After three successful years he was back at the Met, before being made Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police in 1973.

The following nine years saw Alderson at the very peak of his powers. Whilst successfully juggling the task of managing 3,000 police officers across a 10,000 square mile area - including the distant Isles of Scilly - he also became human rights consultant to the Council of Europe. He sat on the committee of the Royal Humane Society, was president of the Royal Life-Saving Society and produced a series of books including Policing Freedom (ITALS) (1979) and Law and Disorder (ITALS) (1984).

Following his retirement at the age of 50, he contested the Parliamentary seat of Teignbridge in Devon for the Liberal Party in the 1983 general election, garnering 20,000 votes but proving ultimately unsuccessful.

Between 1983 and 1989 he was Visiting Professor of Police Studies at Strathclyde University. Amongst many distinguished awards, he was appointed CBE in 1981.

John Alderson died on October 7, aged 89.