Chief Constable Chris Sims yesterday paid tribute to the man he considers to be the architect of West Midlands Police – Lord Philip Knights, who sadly died on Thursday 11th December at the age of 94.
West Midlands Police was formed in 1974 by amalgamating parts of six separate forces which covered the West Midlands area. Lord Knights was the second ever Chief Constable of the new force, succeeding Sir Derrick Capper in August 1975.
Born in 1920, Lord Philip Knights came from a policing family, and joined Lincolnshire Police as a cadet in 1938. He became a police constable in 1940. During the war, 1943-45 he served with the RAF before returning to policing in Lincolnshire.
Intelligent and ambitious, he was encouraged to move up the rank structure and became Chief Superintendent in 1957, aged 37. In 1959 he moved to Birmingham City Police as an assistant Chief Constable, rising to Deputy Chief Constable in 1970. In 1972 he took up the post of Chief Constable in Sheffield and Rotherham Constabulary, which became South Yorkshire Police by amalgamation in 1974.
In 1975 Lord Knights took over from Sir Derrick Capper as Chief Constable, inheriting a group of officers who were used to working in six separate forces. He was to spend the next 10 years pulling them together to make them think and act like one.
Fifteen months into the life of the new force the culture of the officers matched that of their uniforms – very different to each other. Dubbed ‘The force of a thousand macs’, one of Lord Knight’s early tasks was to get everyone wearing the same uniform.
Speaking to the dedicated ‘We are 40 blog’ earlier this year, launched to mark the force’s 40th anniversary, he revealed: ‘I never thought I’d make it past inspector!’
Chief Constable Sims (pictured below with Lord Knights (centre) and Sir Paul Scott-Lee) reflected on this modesty when speaking of his sadness at Lord Knights ’ passing. “It is terribly sad time for the force and it is right that we mark such a great man’s death with reflection and fondness,” he said.
“Lord Knights was the true architect of West Midlands Police. He made us what we are today, in terms of a combined, coherent police force spanning the metropolitan areas of Birmingham, Coventry and the Black Country.
“He brought all of the separate areas together, got us working as one – even down to the very uniforms that we wore.
“He was a humble and dedicated police officer who never lost touch with the force that he helped to create. He has many friends here in the West Midlands and we will all mark his passing at this sad time.”
He was predeceased by his wife Jean, to whom he was devoted. They were saddened to never have children of their own, but he was a much-loved uncle and great uncle. He is remembered by friends and family as a honourable, encouraging and decent man.
B26 pays tribute to a great man.