Manchester’s ‘God’s copper’ Sir James Anderton dies aged 89

Manchester’s ‘God’s copper’ Sir James Anderton dies aged 89

Controversial former police chief Sir James Anderton, who called for the return of corporal punishment and said people with AIDS were ‘swirling in a human cesspit of their own making’, has died aged 89.

Sir James, dubbed ‘God’s copper’ for his strict Christian faith, was one of the country’s most well-known crime fighters after leading Greater Manchester Police (GMP) between 1975 and 1991.

While he launched crackdowns on pornography, late-night drinking and prostitution, his outspoken views often landed him in hot water.

There were calls for him to resign over the comments he made about gay people, drug users and prostitutes at the height of the AIDS crisis in the mid-1980s. He also wanted homosexuality to be outlawed.

However his job was saved by then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who brushed off calls for a public inquiry.

Sir James had also been criticised for saying he wanted to administer corporal punishment on criminals until they ‘beg for mercy’ or ‘repent of their sins.’

I’d thrash some criminals myself, most surely,’ he told one magazine.

He was heavily influenced by his faith and once claimed he was being ‘used by God’ to speak out on moral issues.

But he was accused by rights activists of paying ‘undue attention’ to the gay community.

The Guardian previously reported that he ‘encouraged his officers to stalk [Manchester’s] dank alleys and expose anyone caught in a clinch, while police motorboats with spotlights cruised for gay men around the canal’s locks and bridges.’

In 2011, historian Jeff Evans told the Manchester Evening News: ‘I’ve interviewed retired officers who took part in police surveillance of public toilets, lying in the roof space watching men urinate for hours on end.’

Despite his controversy, he was knighted in 1990 before enjoying a full retirement.

Former colleagues yesterday branded him a ‘great leader’ and ‘a force of nature’.

Sir James became a police officer in the 1950s before rising through the ranks at forces in Cheshire and Leicestershire. He was made the chief of GMP in 1975.

As part of his policy of ‘public accountability’, he introduced the ‘Community Contact Departments’, which helped build relationships between the police and the public.

He also launched the Tactical Aid Group, which was deployed to tackle public disorder.

His tenure saw high profile incidents such as the Moss Side riot of 1981, which saw 1,000 youths attack a local police station before rioting in the streets for two days.

The current chief of GMP constable Stephen Watson said Sir James had left a ‘lasting legacy in policing.’

He said: ‘During his fifteen year service as Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, James Anderton led the force through some of the most extensive periods of change in UK policing.

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