Gordon Taylor, CVO, OBE, QPM. Norfolk chief constable backed rural policing

An advocate of traditional policing values, a former Norfolk chief constable, Gordon Taylor, has died aged 96.

As probably the country's longest serving policeman, he was personally appointed a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order by the Queen for his efforts in ensuring the safety of the Royal Family at Sandringham.

Born in Lincolnshire, Charles Gordon Taylor joined as a police cadet at Nuneaton, Warwickshire, in 1932 in the same month that patrol cars had been introduced. He was one of the few serving policemen, who had a defendant birched. When he retired in 1980, he said: 'It's something I deplore. I approve of corporal punishment by parents and those in authority but do not recommend it as a legal deterrent.'

During the second world war, he was commissioned into the City of London Regiment, Royal Artillery, and posted to India. After this three-year interruption of his police career, in 1946 he returned to Nuneaton as a detective sergeant. He attended the first course at the National Police College in 1948 and then spent three and a half years on the directing staff from 1953.

He was rapidly promoted superintendent by 1960 and three years later attended the college's inaugural senior command course. He became the first to be appointed to a chief officer's rank in 1964 when he was promoted as Norfolk's assistant and deputy chief constable. In 1965, the Queen approved the award as a Serving Brother of the Order of St John of Jerusalem.

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Following amalgamation of the local forces, he was appointed deputy chief constable of Norfolk Joint Police. In May 1972, he was presented with the Queen's Police Medal by the then Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Sir Edmund Bacon. He was also one of five Norfolk people appointed by the Lord Chancellor to sit on one of 18 advisory committees.

He was appointed Norfolk's chief constable in 1975 and rapidly made his mark. In that year, he highlighted the shortage of police officers and noted that the force, then with an establishment of 1,172 had almost 100 vacancies. As a result, he warned that Norfolk policemen may be asked to work 42 or even 44 hours a week instead the present 40. And in April 1976, he told a Norwich meeting that crime had risen by a third in the past two years – and were now 18,000 crimes a year in the county.

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A former past president of Norwich South Rotary Club, he was often invited to address similar groups. He was especially concerned about the soaring costs of policing football matches. Speaking to Watton Rotary Club in 1977, he said that it cost �100,000 a year to police Carrow Road.

It was routine for up to 23 sergeants, and 134 constables to attend matches but when Manchester United visited, nine inspectors, 41 sergeants and 279 constables – a quarter of Norfolk's operational strength would be needed. He also said that in 1978 for the first time at a football match in Norwich, an instruction to draw truncheons had to be given.

In March 1979, he was accompanied by wife, Joan, and daughter Diana, when he was presented with the OBE by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

A keen supporter of the Norwich and District Crime Prevention Panel, he was chairman for many years. When he retired, he spoke of his regrets of leaving a police unit, which he considered small enough to be regarded as a family force.

But his greatest regret was the passing of the village policeman and the loss of the rural police house. Allocating officers to parishes never achieved the same rapport with the community and villagers, he said.

And he believed that the policeman on the beat was always the key to crime prevention and detection. In May 1980, became a board member of the Norwich Building Society and also chairman of Broadland Housing Association's development committee.

He leaves a daughter, Diana, granddaughters Alexandra and Victoria, great grandchildren Hayden and Holly.

A service of thanksgiving will be held at St Peter's Church, Cringleford, on Thursday, November 24 at 12.30pm.

Michael Pollitt

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