Joseph Simpson

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Sir Joseph Simpson

Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police
In office
1 September 1958 – 20 March 1968
Preceded bySir John Nott-Bower
Succeeded bySir John Waldron
Personal details
Born(1909-06-26)26 June 1909
Dawley, Shropshire, England
Died20 March 1968(1968-03-20) (aged 58)
Roehampton, London, England
ProfessionPolice officer

Sir Joseph Simpson, KBE, QPM (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.

Early life, education and sporting career[edit]

Simpson was born in Dawley[1] in Shropshire[2] 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 University Champion in the 400 metres 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).[3]

In his early sporting career he won medals and other trophies with the London Athletic Club, 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 the Lincoln County Rifle Club, the Surrey County Small Bore Rifle Association, the Affiliated Rifle Association, and the National Short Range Rifle League (defunct), based at Bisley and elsewhere.[4]

As Commissioner, Simpson was Vice-Patron of the Amateur Athletic Association and Vice-President of the Middlesex RFU.[5]

Early police career[edit]

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,[6] 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.[7]

Provincial police career[edit]

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.[8] In 1939 he was seconded (as Acting Inspector of Constabularies) to the Regional Commissioner's Offices for Nottinghamshire and then for Cambridgeshire[9] and in 1943 was appointed Chief Constable of Northumberland Constabulary.[10][11] Simpson was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1946 New Year Honours for his services to civil defence.[12] 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.[13]

Return to the Metropolitan Police[edit]

On 1 March 1956, Simpson rejoined the Metropolitan Police as Assistant Commissioner "B", in charge of traffic policing.[14] During this appointment he visited USA and Canada, with the Transport Minister Ernest Marples who subsequently introduced parking meters in London. On 20 January 1957 he was appointed Deputy Commissioner,[15] and on 1 September 1958 he became Commissioner.[2][16] In 1967 Simpson saw the move from the Victoria Embankment headquarters to New Scotland Yard located at 10 Broadway, close to St. James's Park station. (The Metropolitan Police headquarters moved back to Victoria Embankment in 2017.)


He was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in the 1959 New Year Honours.[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.

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 was never 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.


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,[18] with all Metropolitan Police officers who were able to do so observing a one minute's silence at 11am.[19]

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 bas-relief,[20] by John Skelton[21] was unveiled by James Callaghan, then Home Secretary.[22]


Order of the British Empire (Civil) Ribbon.png
Queens Police Medal for Merit.png Ribbon - Defence Medal.png Ribbon - QE II Coronation Medal.png Police Long Service and Good Conduct ribbon.png

Ribbon Description Notes
Order of the British Empire (Civil) Ribbon.png Order of the British Empire (KBE)
Queens Police Medal for Merit.png King's Police and Fire Services Medal (KPFSM)
Ribbon - Defence Medal.png Defence Medal
Ribbon - QE II Coronation Medal.png Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal
  • 1953
Police Long Service and Good Conduct ribbon.png Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal



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 [24] but his BSAP Record of Service rates his conduct as having been 'very good'.[25] Mark Simpson then served briefly in the Rhodesian Army and the Department of Internal Affairs from which he resigned [26] in 1964 because of imminent political change (UDI). He later served for thirty-one years in the Hong Kong Police/Royal Hong Kong Police. He died at Maidstone Hospital on 23 December 2012, following a short illness. 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 [27] in 1991 and re-appointed as an Independent Member in October 2008, serving till police authorities were abolished on 21 November 2012. Ben Simpson was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the New Year Honours 2010 for services to the community in Oxford.[28]


  1. ^ Tribute on Dawley Heritage website
  2. ^ a b "Metropolitan Police Chief: Deputy to Succeed Sir J. Nott-Bower", The Times, 30 May 1958
  3. ^ The Times, 12 April 1934
  4. ^ Medals and other trophies held in family archive
  5. ^ "A Policeman's Policeman", "The Job (Metropolitan Police Newspaper)", 29 March 1968
  6. ^ "Metropolitan Police College", The Times, 12 April 1934
  7. ^ "Police College Students to Begin Duty", The Times, 23 May 1936
  8. ^ Official Appointments and Notices, The Times, 5 July 1937
  9. ^ 'Assistant Chief Constables' - Lincolnshire Police 'yesteryears'
  10. ^ Photograph of Chief Constables of Northumberland 1935-63, held by Northumbria NARPO.
  11. ^ A portrait of Sir Henry Studdy, Simpson's predecessor, is held in the National Portrait Gallery [1]
  12. ^ "No. 37412". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 December 1945. p. 284.
  13. ^ "No. 39421". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 December 1951. p. 34.
  14. ^ "No. 40726". The London Gazette. 6 March 1956. p. 1375.
  15. ^ "Metropolitan Police Appointments", The Times, 12 November 1956
  16. ^ "No. 41488". The London Gazette. 2 September 1958. p. 5413.
  17. ^ "No. 41589". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1958. p. 10.
  18. ^ "Abbey funeral", The Times, 22 March 1968
  19. ^ "Sir Joseph Simpson", The Times, 27 March 1968
  20. ^ Image on Art & Architecture, web site of the Courtauld Institute of Art (unattributed). Retrieved 4 February 2008
  21. ^ John Skelton, sculptor and lettercutter 1923–1999 Archived 13 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 4 February 2008
  22. ^ "A Leader by example", The Job - (Metropolitan Police Newspaper), 29 June 1970
  23. ^ "Sir Joseph Simpson : Dawley Heritage".
  24. ^ "Police Chief's Son Dismissed", The Times, 15 July 1963
  25. ^ Record of Service (Discharge Certificate dated 28 June 1963); Family archives.
  26. ^ Letter of acceptance of resignation signed by Neal Robertson, Provincial Commissioner held in family archives dated 25 March 1964
  27. ^ Web site of Thames Valley Police Authority Archived 31 December 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ "No. 59282". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2009. p. 22.


  • Obituary, The Times, 21 March 1968
  • Martin Fido and Keith Skinner, The Official Encyclopedia of Scotland Yard, London, 1999
Police appointments
Preceded by
William Trigg
Assistant Chief Constable of Lincolnshire
Succeeded by
J H Harker
Preceded by
Henry Studdy
Chief Constable of Northumberland
Succeeded by
Francis J Armstrong
Preceded by
Geoffrey Nicholson
Chief Constable of Surrey
Succeeded by
Herman Rutherford
Preceded by
Sir Henry Dalton
Assistant Commissioner "B", Metropolitan Police
Succeeded by
Douglas Webb
Preceded by
Sir Ronald Howe
Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis
Succeeded by
Alexander Robertson
Preceded by
Sir John Nott-Bower
Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis
Succeeded by
Sir John Waldron