When Alan Simpson first volunteered to help keep the peace in North Yorkshire in February 1970, pop group Edison Lighthouse were top of the charts and car firm Chrysler had just launched their new Hillman Avenger.
And now, after 46 years of serving the community in Richmond, he is set to retire next month after becoming the county force’s longest-serving Special Constable.
Alan is a true example of all that makes an exemplary Special Constable.Inspector Mark Gee, North Yorkshire Police
He was today hailed for his “outstanding achievement” by police chiefs in North Yorkshire, who praised him as “a key member of the Richmondshire community”.
Mr Simpson signed up on February 2, 1970, after his snooker partner, a regular officer also based at Richmond, nagged him to join over a period of time. He joined the York and North East Yorkshire Constabulary as North Yorkshire Police was not formed for another four years.
He said: “The next thing I knew was the village bobby turning up at the house with the all the paper work.
“My mum did quite a bit of volunteering for the civil defence and Women’s Voluntary Services at the time, learning how to make soup kitchens out of dustbins and things like that, so I suppose she might have influenced me a bit.”
Mr Simpson’s day job revolved around farm work or farm building maintenance and construction, and he worked for a local contractor until he retired three years ago.
He was attested in the farmhouse kitchen of the local Justice of the Peace, who he knew well as a neighbouring farmer, and whose son was also a special.
Speaking about his long service, he said: “Yes it’s true that I have been in for a long time, but I don’t see myself as being any more worthy than someone who has served ten, fifteen or twenty years in the specials and then subsequently retired or resigned because of personal circumstances.
“My personal circumstances and location have played a large part in my long service, living only half a mile from the station.
“I count myself very fortunate in that others have had to travel much greater distances to perform duty and with a greater disruption to their day job and family life.
“I would say that one of the main things that has kept me chipping away over the years was the constant support, help and friendliness of the regular officers who I have had the pleasure of working with.
“I would like to take this opportunity of thanking them sincerely for the help they have given us all. I am certain that that will continue as it always has done.
“I always had a policy of working with all the shifts never favouring one shift over another, consequently it made it very easy to work anytime I liked. I can’t recall a duty I did, no matter how short it was, when I didn’t have back up from the ‘regs’ should it be required, or that I wasn’t thanked for turning out by someone or other before I went home.”
Among his most memorable moments as a Special were disabling a burglar alarm twenty-five feet up a house gable end that was keeping locals awake at two in the morning and breaking up fights and brawls outside nightclubs and pubs.
He advised aspiring specials joining today is get to know as many regulars as you can at your home station and go on duty with them. “There are many styles of policing and it enables one to witness quite a few of them,” he said.
Mr Simpson’s last day with North Yorkshire Police is February 2, after which he plans to jet off to New Zealand to visit his three brothers.
Inspector Mark Gee of Richmond police, said: “Alan is a key member of the Richmondshire community. He is well known by local residents and provided a key link with people who live and work in the area.
“His knowledge of rural issues and support for Rural Watch made him a vital member of the team who contributed a huge amount in helping us keep the area safe.
“Alan is a true example of all that makes an exemplary Special Constable. He has been a great role model and mentor to both Special Constables and Regular officers and I, alongside my colleagues wish Alan all the very best in retirement.”
Chief Constable Dave Jones said: “46 years as a Special Constable is a truly outstanding achievement. My thanks go to Alan for his commitment to policing in North Yorkshire, he is a great inspiration to us all. I wish him a very well-deserved and relaxing retirement.”
North Yorkshire Police is currently recruiting special constables, with recruitment closing at 9am on February 1. For more information and to apply visit www.nypspecials.com
‘Specials’, who come from all walks of life and backgrounds and volunteer a minimum of 16 hours a month to policing, have the same powers as regular officers.
North Yorkshire Police has 198 Specials and are looking to recruit at least another 70 during this month’s recruitment campaign.
The force is looking for people with good communication skills, who can work well in a team and who are resilient and able to cope with difficult and sometimes harrowing situations. Bosses also looking for new recruits who can speak a second language.