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Former GMP Chief 'God's Cop' James Anderton dies

The controversial former Chief Constable of Greater Manchester has died.

The Chief Constable who dealt with the Moss Side riots and caused uproar at the height of the AIDS epidemic has died.

Sir James Anderton, who led Greater Manchester from 1976 until 1991, was 89. His death was announced through former colleagues and the current Chief Constable led the tributes.  

Some of his innovations in response to violent criminals are now standard practice for forces across the country.

But his hardline statements on issues linked to public morality - including criticising the LGBTQ community at the height of the AIDS crisis - made him a controversial national figure and gained him the nickname ‘God’s Cop’.

His career in policing began with the Royal Military Police during National Service and he then transferred to Manchester City Police in 1953.

He rose through the ranks becoming Deputy Chief Constable of the new Greater Manchester force in 1975 before taking the top job a year later aged 44.

His appointment coincided with huge social changes as industrialised cities began to decline.

Early initiatives included targeting pornography shops and brothels which were largely run by organised crime gangs plus street prostitution.

Although welcomed by campaigners, the operation was also criticised as a form of censorship.

More initiatives followed against illegal drinking clubs and street robbers – the latter using techniques developed in New York – and a unit to investigate racially-motivated incidents.

But his first big test was the Moss Side riot of 1981. He had already created the Tactical Aid Group (TAG) to respond to football hooliganism and major public order. 

After two days of community leaders trying and failing to get people off the streets, Sir James deployed the group who used tactics developed by the Royal Ulster Constabulary such as snatch squads. The riot was over within hours.

It cemented his reputation as a tough Chief who was more than happy to deploy in strength.

In a newspaper interview in 1985, he said: “We have two choices in the police force – either we stay where we are and die or we ignominiously cut and run. As long as it is in my power, I have no intention of leaving my officers unprotected... I shall never abandon the citizens of Greater Manchester to the mercy of rioters, rapists, looters and criminals.”

But his tough approach also extended into wider community relations.

He was critical of politicians who sought to make him accountable and his staunch Catholic faith resulted in pronouncements on morality that were deemed by many to be outside his remit.

Former officer Bob Marshall, who revealed his death, said: “Those of us who worked with or for him will all have our memories on which we can reflect.

The force’s Fed leader Richard Cooke shared on social media: “One of the few Chiefs who will be widely remembered. Back when they focused on cleaning the streets of criminality. I recall him well during my youth in 1980s.”

Current Chief Constable Stephen Watson paid tribute: "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.

"He was a public servant of significant stature who oversaw many innovative and important operational developments, leaving behind a lasting legacy in policing.

"He was highly regarded by police officers and staff and is still well remembered within GMP after over twenty years of retirement. "

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