Progressive former police chief dies aged 89

Former Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, John Alderson, who died aged 89 last week. Picture copyright Richard Lappas.

Former Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, John Alderson, who died aged 89 last week. Picture copyright Richard Lappas.


A former chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police known as the ‘father of community policing’ has died in West Hill aged 89.

John Alderson, CBE, famously tried out an experiment on the Pinhoe estate in Exeter receiving numerous calls from mothers worried about their children.

With police guidance, they ran a play scheme for children in summer holidays and saw vandalism and petty crime disappear.

By the time he retired similar community schemes could be seen across the country, all based on his principle of pro-active rather than reactive policing.

Born in Barnsley in 1922, he became a warrant officer in the Army Physical Training Corps during service in North Africa and Italy.

On his discharge in 1946, he joined the West Riding Constabulary, and rose to the level of inspector in just nine years, studying law in his spare time and being called to the bar in 1956.

Promotions followed rapidly, before being appointed Deputy Chief Constable of Dorset in 1963, ahead of becoming Commandant of the Police College at Bramshill and later an assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan Police.

But in 1973 he took on the role Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall, where his reputation was cemented.

He will be remembered for his evidence to Lord Scarman inquiry into the Brixton riots, where he went against other chiefs of police by advocating more liberal policies.

He was appointed CBE in 1981and retired a year later, but continued to be a voice on policing methods, publishing books and was a regular broadcaster.

In 1983, having long harboured an interest in politics, he unsuccessfully contested Teignbridge for the Liberals.

He married Irené Macmillan Stirling in 1948, who died in 2008, and he is survived by their son.

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