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David McNee

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David McNee

Sir David McNee
20th Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police
In office
Preceded by Sir Robert Mark
Succeeded by Sir Kenneth Newman
Personal details
Born David Blackstock McNee
(1925-03-23) 23 March 1925
Glasgow, Scotland
Spouse(s) Isabel Hopkins (1952–1997)
Lillian Campbell (2002–present)
Profession Police officer

Sir David Blackstock McNee, QPM (born 23 March 1925) was Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police from 1977 to 1982 and Chief Constable of the City of Glasgow Police (later Strathclyde Police) from 1971 to 1977.


  • Early life 1
  • Metropolitan Police Commissioner 2
    • Iranian Embassy Siege 2.1
    • Brixton Riots 2.2
    • Buckingham Palace incident 2.3
    • Operation Countryman 2.4
  • After the Met 3
  • Personal life 4
  • Publications 5
  • References 6

Early life

Born in Glasgow, McNee worked as an office boy at the Clydesdale Bank before joining the Royal Navy as a rating in 1943. In 1946, McNee began his career in the police when he joined the City of Glasgow Police, serving as a uniformed constable before joining the force's Marine Division as a Detective Constable in 1951. He rose up the ranks to Inspector and served in the Flying Squad and Special Branch, until attending a senior command course at the Police Staff College, Bramshill, after which he was appointed Assistant Chief Constable of Dunbartonshire County Constabulary. In 1971, he took charge of the City of Glasgow Police, which during his tenure as Chief Constable was merged with six other local Scottish police forces to form Strathclyde Police. He joined the Metropolitan Police in London in 1977 as the Met's Commissioner, the first time he had served outside of Scotland as a police officer.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner

McNee had commanded the second largest police force in Britain in Strathclyde, and was now in charge of the largest. However, his lengthy experience as a low-ranking beat officer in Glasgow was at odds with the academic and theoretical training he had received at Bramshill in the Senior Officers's course. Determined to improve the working conditions of London's beat bobbies, McNee implemented several reforms to the Metropolitan Police, some of which would be further refined by his successors.

Iranian Embassy Siege

One of the most dramatic incidents to occur during McNee's time with the Metropolitan Police was the siege of the Iranian Embassy in 1980. McNee and the Met were praised for their response and actions during the siege, however, when the first hostage was shot, McNee immediately handed control of the operation over to the British Army, who deployed the Special Air Service to storm the building and resolve the situation.

Brixton Riots

One of the most serious riots in London of the 20th century took place in Lord Scarman. McNee was against the repeal of the sus law, believing that no evidence had been provided that arrests under that law did harm to the relationship between the police and black people. He did not believe pressure for repeal came from the law-abiding citizens of Brixton but instead from external extremists.[1]

Buckingham Palace incident

On 9 July 1982, a man later identified as Michael Fagan broke into the private apartments at Buckingham Palace, where he spent ten minutes chatting to Queen Elizabeth II in her bedroom until he was apprehended by police and palace guards.[2] The Home Secretary, William Whitelaw, sent his Permanent Secretary to ask McNee to take responsibility for the incident and resign – a request McNee declined.[3]

Operation Countryman

The investigation into corruption amongst City of London Police officers and Metropolitan Police officers known as Operation Countryman occurred predominantly during McNee's tenure. McNee was very critical of the conduct of the investigation, in particular that the investigation team would not pass him evidence relating to complaints made against his police officers.

After the Met

McNee was knighted in 1978, and remained as Metropolitan Police Commissioner for five years until his retirement in 1982. He published his memoirs, McNee's Law, in 1983.

Personal life

McNee married Isabel Clayton Hopkins (later Isabel, Lady McNee) in 1952. They had one daughter. In his memoirs, McNee said of his wife: "During our marriage Isabel always put my needs as a police officer first. She has never failed me." Like her husband, she was a devout Christian, and was involved in several charitable endeavours. In her later years, Lady McNee suffered from various blood disorders, and she died of leukaemia in 1997.[4]

In 2002, aged 77, McNee married Lillian Campbell, 56, the widow of a close friend Norman Campbell who had died the previous year.[5]


  • McNee, David (1983). McNee's Law: The Memoirs Of Sir David McNee, Five Critical Years At The Metropolitan Police. London: Collins.  


  1. ^ McNee, David (1983). McNee's Law: The Memoirs Of Sir David McNee, Five Critical Years At The Metropolitan Police. Collins. pp. 109–134.  
  2. ^ BBC Online: On This Day: 9 July – 1982: Queen fends off bedroom intruder.
  3. ^ House of Lords Hansard: 8 Jun 2006: Column 1452.
  4. ^ Russell, George: Lady Isabel McNee, The Herald, 4 September 1997.
  5. ^ Ex-police chief Sir David set to marry again at 77, Evening Times, 26 September 2002.
Police appointments
Preceded by
Sir Robert Mark
Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis
Succeeded by
Sir Kenneth Newman
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