Nick Smart, chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Federation, said officers up and down the country would be thinking today about Keith Palmer, the “hero” policeman stabbed to death in central London.
PC Palmer, 48, was a member of the Met’s parliamentary and diplomatic protection command with 15 years of service as an officer.
The married father, believed to have been a member of the Royal Artillery before he joined the police, was unarmed when the lone attacker came charging towards him wielding a large knife.
Mr Smart said: “We are 43 different forces but we all perform the same function. When one of us falls in such horrendous circumstances, particularly in the course of protecting the public and running towards the danger, people just feel gutted.
“Up and down the country there is a very sombre feeling this morning. They will be putting on their uniforms and doing their jobs but they will be constantly thinking about Keith Palmer, his family and their sacrifice.
“We all went to bed last night with heavy hearts, feeling lucky we are alive but knowing one of our brother officers was not so lucky, and the devastation that has caused.”
The last West Yorkshire Police officer to be killed in the line of duty was Sharon Beshenivsky, who was shot dead by a criminal gang during a robbery in Bradford on 18 November 2005.
In 2003, Pc Ian Broadhurst was shot dead by former US marine David Bieber in the Fearnville area of Leeds.
Mr Smart said: “Unlike a lot of countries, because we have that covenant with the public, we don’t often see officers killed on duty, but when it happens, with Ian Broadhurst and Sharon Beshenivsky, and in Manchester Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone, you see the devastating effects on an officer who was just trying to do their job and keep people safe.
“When they are killed in duty it rips the heart out of the policing community. It can happen at any time or in any place. Those memories will be flooding back for people today. We are one police service and we come together at times like these.”
In the hours after the attack at Westminster, and the announcement of the death of Pc Palmer, politicians have led tributes to the fallen officer and praised the day-to-day bravery of the emergency services.
Mr Smart said: “There has been an outpouring from the public, which is great, but sometimes it take something like this to happen for people to realise that we do run towards danger and put our own lives at risk, and in this case out someone else’s life ahead of your own.
“Cops don’t do it for plaudits or pats on the back, it is about the satisfaction of keeping people safe. We live in circumstances where people unpick split-second decisions months down the line. We do a difficult job and we try our best.
“When something like this happens it is horrendous but it is some solace to the rank and file working that they are appreciated in times like this. Sometimes we do feel we are taken for granted.
“It reflects the dangers of policing and how lucky the public are to have a service that does not police down the barrel of a gun. We are unarmed, we police by consent, but at times it makes us vulnerable.”