TWELVE days after the dangers facing police were tragically underlined by the fatal shooting of two officers in Greater Manchester, more than 2,000 people congregated at York Minster to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice while in the service.
National Police Memorial Day has been held annually for the past nine years but yesterday’s event was charged with fresh poignancy following the deaths of Pcs Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone on September 18.
Members of the rank and file joined the families of those who have been killed, senior officers and politicians, among them Home Secretary Theresa May.
The address was given by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who described fallen police officers as “the bravest of the brave”.
Prince Charles, patron of the memorial day, was unable to attend the event but, writing in the order of service, he spoke of the “supreme valour and remarkable heroism” shown by British police.
“All too often the extraordinary courage displayed by our police results in the ultimate sacrifice being paid,” he wrote. “Those brave officers who give their all for us deserve to be honoured and remembered. We owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.”
The service remembered the seven officers who have died this year, as well as those whose lives were lost in previous years.
The deaths of Pcs Hughes and Bone, as they responded to what was thought to be routine call to a burglary on the Hattersley estate, were so recent their names did not appear in the order of service and were instead read out during the memorial.
Among the others who were remembered was Pc Ian Dibell, from Essex Police, who was shot dead in July after confronting a gunman threatening two other people during a dispute in Clacton. He was off-duty at the time.
Det Con Andrew Stokes, of Greater Manchester Police, died of a heart attack while on duty in January, at the age of 46, while Det Con Karen Paterson, who was 43, was killed in a road accident as she travelled to work at Thorpe Wood police station in Peterborough in January.
Insp Preston Gurr, of the Metropolitan Police, was killed while on his way home from a shift on his motorcycle. He was 53 and had two children.
And Pc David Rathband, who died in February, was also remembered.
He was left blind after being shot in the face by fugitive Raoul Moat while sitting in his patrol car on the outskirts of Newcastle upon Tyne, in July 2010.
Mrs May read a prayer, as did Emma Barker – the young daughter of Pc Bill Barker who died when a bridge was washed away during floods in Workington, Cumbria, in 2009.
After the names of all the officers who had died this year were read out, petals were dropped from the roof of the cathedral while an orchestra played hymn Abide With Me and a trumpeter sounded The Last Post.
Among the 40 chief constables who attended the service was Sir Peter Fahy, of Greater Manchester Police.
He said the deaths of Pcs Hughes and Bone gave the event extra poignancy, but he added: “The important thing today really is remembering all the officers who have given their lives during the year.
“I cannot tell you how much we have been uplifted by the public response; it has been quite extraordinary. It really does show the level of support for ordinary officers going about their day to day business.”
Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, added: “The National Police Memorial Day provides an opportunity for the whole police family to come together and remember police officers who have died protecting the communities they served.
“Today is particularly poignant as the losses of PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes in Greater Manchester and Pc Ian Dibell in Essex are still so raw. The tributes to these officers have shown policing was a true vocation for them.”
Police Federation chairman Paul McKeever said: “It’s a chance for us to get together as a police family and bond and say we remember those who are no longer with us.”
During 180 years of modern policing, more than 4,000 officers have been killed in the line of duty.