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National leads remember 'colleague and friend' Simon Cole

Tributes have been paid by national leads to ‘diligent and determined’ former Leicestershire Chief Simon Cole.

Policing’s top ranks have paid tribute to former Leicestershire Chief Simon Cole.

Chiefs from across the country have marked his contribution to national policing and dedicated service to specialist areas and local communities in three force areas.

The memorial, shared by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, followed the tragic death of Mr Cole at his home just days after he retired from service.

it came in the same week as the force's museum emotionally revealed it has now received his formal tunic as a permanent donation.

National Police Chiefs' Council Chair Martin Hewitt said: “Aside from the enormous impact that Simon had in Leicestershire, Hampshire, and West Midlands Police, he played a significant role on the national stage to improve policing, to keep people safe, and to provide the best possible service to the public.   

"Perhaps more importantly from a personal perspective, I reflect on the role that Simon played as a fellow chief officer, colleague and friend.   

“He was always supportive, always curious and interested.  Always innovative, very often challenging.  He did everything for the right reasons and with a smile on his face.   

He acknowledged the shock felt across policing when it was revealed he had died.

CC Hewitt said: “I know from conversations since the sad news of his death how much he was liked, respected and admired in policing. After over a decade as part of chief constables’ council he had great impact on that forum and how it worked - his openness, friendliness, candour and intellectual rigour brought out the best in us all.  

“I know I speak for my fellow chief officers when I say we will always be grateful he chose a career in policing, that we had the opportunity to know him and for the significant positive contribution he made as a public servant." 

His career started with West Midlands out of necessity as it was one of the few forces that would accept recruits who were colour-blind.

He became Assistant Chief Constable at Hampshire Constabulary in 2003, and Deputy Chief Constable in 2008. He was then appointed Chief of Leicestershire in 2010.

Mr Cole was national lead for the Prevent programme from 2016 to his retirement in March 2022. He led developments in policy, training and case management. 

In 2016 he oversaw the development of Vulnerability Support Hubs, which bring mental health experts alongside counter terrorism policing to ensure mental illness and complex needs issues are addressed early on. These interventions help to stop vulnerable people from being criminalised and drawn into terrorism. 

Most recently Simon chaired a strategic efficiency and re-investment review change process, ensuring the counter-terrorism network is fit for future and prepared to keep pace with changing threats. 

National Lead for Counter Terrorism Policing, Assistant Commissioner Matt Jukes said: “Simon was a diligent and determined leader in counter terrorism. He was not just the NPCC lead for Prevent, but a clear and enthusiastic advocate for its life-saving work. He was a champion for his colleagues in our teams doing this vital work.   

“He was the best kind of critical friend to those of us in leadership positions in counter terrorism, not least to Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu and myself.  

“His passion, professionalism and personality will always be appreciated and never be forgotten.” 

His passion for mental health issues made him one of the first to recognise the impact of repeated traumatic incidents on response officers. He brought a national focus to work to support their wellbeing.

Leicestershire’s diverse community, which first came to national attention with the arrival of refugees fleeing Uganda in the 1970s, made him acutely aware of language barriers.

In 2015 he took responsibility for police use of language services, advising government and police forces on best practice in use of interpreters and translators. Changes he delivered are helping people who cannot speak English fluently to communicate the police, whether as witnesses, victims, suspects or those needing advice.  

Mr Cole spoke widely about the need for policing to adapt to a changing world particularly the rise of offending linked to technology.

He had started as a PC with a truncheon, a radio and a first aid kit. Now officers are routinely dealing offences linked to mobile phones – and he pushed for forces to innovate.

As Senior Responsible Officer for Digital Public Contact from 2016 until his retirement in March 2022, Simon oversaw the implementation of the single online home - a national digital front counter, currently used by 30 forces. It allows the public to report non-emergency crime online and to engage with their local force, better meeting the needs of many people who contact policing, and taking pressure away from 101 and 999 call handlers. 

He led the NPCC’s local policing committee from 2012 to 2019 with wide responsibility from neighbourhood policing to public contact and engagement. His evidence-based standards set out in national neighbourhood guidelines have helped to improve the standard of local response across England and Wales.  

National lead for Local Policing, Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney said: “Simon expanded the national focus on local policing confidently and with pace. Neighbourhood policing is the bedrock of British policing and Simon led many important developments that improved and modernised it. 

“Simon coordinated, cajoled and challenged within policing, within Whitehall, and with wider public sector partners to make change where it was needed. He worked closely health partners and other agencies to ensure we are all collectively better equipped to deal with anti-social behaviour, respond in the right way to people suffering from severe mental health crisis, and engage young people. 

“He never gave up, had a forensic mind, a warm wit which disarmed the fiercest interlocutor and a boundless optimism in his work which inspired everyone around him.”

Away from the frontline, he was a tireless advocate for Police Sport UK which enabled him to share his enthusiasm for tennis and rugby.   He was a keen tennis player and chaired PSUK Tennis for 12 years. He became Chair of British Police Cricket in 2017, and the same year became Chair of the British Police Men's Rugby Section.  

But it was Leicestershire - the county he grew up in – where he had the most impact when he was made Chief.

His last official duty has been an awards ceremony for staff, officers and members of the local community.

It brought to an end 12 years as Chief of Leicestershire and more than 30 years in uniform.

In his final interview for the Leicester Mercury just before stepping down he said: “I joined because I wanted to help people. I wanted to do something which would present challenges and have value.”

In a statement, his wife Jo said: “Simon had such a huge impact on so many people, through his many years with the police but also through charities and sports clubs. He had a huge energy for life and everything he did was about making things better for people.

"We are not sure how we will manage to come to terms with Simon not being here.”

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