The new Commissioner talks about the launch of a major campaign to raise funds to build a new UK Police Memorial in Staffordshire.
As I take up my position as Commissioner I do so at a time when policing is still mourning the loss of a much loved colleague. PC Keith Palmer’s death makes us appreciate the fragility of the thin blue line protecting the public – but also its strength.
A major campaign is being launched to raise funds to build a new UK Police Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. The NMA is the place where the nation honours our services and where the men and women killed in the course of their duty for their country are remembered. It is designed for both major public events and private acts of contemplation and is home to over 330 separate memorials representing the armed forces.
At the moment no comparable tribute exists there for our police service.That is why I and my colleagues throughout the Metropolitan Police are supporting the UK Police Memorial campaign and I actively encourage you to do the same.
Last week I and thousands of colleagues from across the police service said a final goodbye to Keith. It was a sad first day as Commissioner but one that made me proud as I stood together with fellow officers and service personnel.
What marked this out from other service funerals that I have attended was the swathe of blue and green uniforms that adorned the streets around Southwark Cathedral. Not only had Keith been a police officer for the last 15 years, but he was also somebody who had served his country in the armed forces. How fitting then that all those who had served alongside him should come together to pay tribute and celebrate his life.
A few days later I visited the site of PC Yvonne Fletcher’s murder to commemorate the 33rd anniversary of her death. It was following Yvonne’s death that film producer Michael Winner established the Winner Memorials to be sited at locations where officers had been killed. Sadly up until this time there was no proper tribute or acknowledgement to the courage and sacrifice made by my policing colleagues.
As I stood next to her memorial in St. James’s Square I reflected on how the Metropolitan Police Service has changed in the last three decades, she and I of that same generation of officers. What would Yvonne have achieved in policing if she had lived? Those of us who are left behind have the luxury of growing old and experiencing life’s ever changing landscape, yet Keith and Yvonne and the many others like them were denied their tomorrows.
Attending a funeral or marking an anniversary of an officer killed on duty is a brief moment in time. I feel it is immensely important that we never forget those who have paid with their lives to keep us safe and protect us from harm. It is important we are all informed and educated about them and important we continue to support their loved ones.
Not only will the UK Police Memorial at the NMA be a place for quiet reflection and contemplation, it will be a place where the nation can come together to honour and a permanent commemoration to all those officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. A place to think about those who have given so much; where we can dignify each death, celebrate each life, remember each loss but also acknowledge these losses collectively and in doing so honour both the fallen and those who continue to serve.