OBITUARY: Kenneth Parker

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The Independent Online
Kenneth Parker will be remembered for the outstanding contributions he made as head of the Police Department of the Home Office and Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District in the 1960s and early 1970s, times of thorough reorganisation of the police force.

When Parker became head of the Police Department in 1961, the report of the Royal Commission on the Police was about to be received, and it fell to him to make use of the commission's recommendations in supervising preparations for the Police Act of 1964 which provided a statutory framework for the police service which has remained largely unchanged to the present day. It was a task, involving extensive negotiations with police authorities, chief officers and police associations, for which Parker had both the temperament and the capacity for hard work to make successful. Over the same period much was to be done in establishing a new Police College at Bramshill, in Hampshire, linked to the introduction of university places for police officers.

The arrival in 1965 of Roy Jenkins as Home Secretary brought further important developments, notably the reduction by amalgamation of more than 100 police forces to fewer than 50, which again was completed successfully after careful planning and preparation under Parker's supervision.

A new police service had thus already begun to emerge when Parker was appointed Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District in 1967. New organisational changes were urgently needed and it was not long before Parker succeeded, with the approval of the Home Secretary and Sir John Waldron, the Commissioner, in implementing co-ordination of the responsibilities of the police and civil staff which had previously operated under separate offices. Parker became chief administrative officer in the force, reporting directly to the commissioner, while retaining statutory responsibility to the Home Secretary and Parliament as Accounting Officer for the finances of the force.

A new approach was thereby introduced to the general management of the Metropolitan Police with Parker, in his extended role, increasingly associated with policies affecting the force as a whole. There were serious issues to be faced, and following Sir Robert Mark's appointment as Deputy Commissioner and later as Commissioner, Mark and Parker were in ever-growing harmony in formulation of policies to start putting matters right.

Much was achieved during Parker's seven years as Receiver, to which Mark gave generous recognition in his annual report to the Home Secretary in 1974 following Parker's retirement, concluding: "No Commissioner can ever have received more willing and valuable help from a Receiver. Few departures from Scotland Yard can have been regretted so much or with such good cause."

Parker's early years had been much like those of others obtaining entry to the higher grades of the Home Civil Service. Leaving Tottenham Grammar School, in north London, as head boy with a scholarship for St John's College, Cambridge, he took a double First in history and entered the Home Office at the age of 22. But what followed brought distinctive and unusual features.

The first was that preparations for the Second World War took Parker into the new field of Civil Defence, leading to the headquarters of the London Civil Defence Region as London came under attack. There he made his mark with Sir Ernest Gowers, the Senior Regional Commissioner, followed after the war by selection for the Imperial Defence College and working with Sir Sidney Kirkman (Montgomery's artillery commander) in the Civil Defence Department of the Home Office.

When Parker retired in 1974 he was asked to take a role of identifying officers of promise for higher training at the Police College, and he never lost a most close interest in developments in the service.

Much more made up the man than success in official duties. Those who worked with Parker remember particularly his integrity, which was accompanied by a most equitable temperament and lively sense of humour. Advice was always kindly given to those who sought it, and only the imprudent did not heed his words.

No one who knew Kenneth Parker well ever thinks of him without also thinking of his wife Freda, his support for 57 years. At their home at Kew - shelf after shelf of books on the ground floor and rows of fine French wines in the cellar - men and women from different walks and levels of life gathered often for generous hospitality and much enjoyment.

R. A. James

Kenneth Alfred Lamport Parker, civil servant: born 1 April 1912; Assistant Under-Secretary of State, Home Office 1955-57, Head of Police Department 1961-66; CB 1959; Receiver for the Metropolitan Police 1967-74; married 1938 Freda Silcock (one son, one daughter); died 11 September 1995.