Mixed Messages

I never met David Rathband. I never spoke directly to him. I know little of his career and his life other than that which is most likely misreported in the press. I did trade the odd tweet with him but nothing of any value.

However, I can share a sense of affinity with him. Why?

Why is because the police in this country and internationally are a family. We all know the job we do, the risks we face and the impact it has on our lives both at home and at work. I know the job David did and I know that it could have been any one of the officers in this country that fell victim to the attack he suffered. I know the passion he shared for his job. The term “job” is somewhat of a misnomer though as most officers don’t use the word job. We may say “Is he in the job?” or similar but overall we regard police work as a vocation and one that we feel drawn to do. It takes a very special kind of person to be a police officer.

When we lose one of our number we all mourn. We all know that it could just as easily have been us. Some may say that I’m not entitled to say what I write below but I say I am for all the reasons above.

Today a memorial service was held in Newcastle for PC David Rathband. It was very well attended by his family, friends and colleagues who wished to pay their respects to a very brave man. I wish in many regards I could have been there too. If anyone reading this was there then I was there with you in spirit, mind and prayer.

When we lose one of our own whilst on duty it strikes to the heart of every police officer. Whilst emotions are raw people need to be treated with a little respect. Treated with compassion. We all know when to speak and when to be silent. Though not all of us.

Been at moving service in Newcastle celebrating the life of PC David Rathband – his courage a reminder of what police officers do for us all

The above is a tweet. It would be acceptable to see this had it come from a friend, a colleague, the Chief Constable or the Chair of the Police Federation Paul McKeever. The problem is that it didn’t. This tweet came from the current Policing Minister Nick Herbert MP. The one person who, along with the Home Secretary is systematically destroying the finest police service in the world.

David Rathband challenged the Home Secretary at the last Police Federation Conference. It was a very emotive moment and David took the wind out of Theresa May’s sails in a way very few have. You can view it here.

I would put pound to a penny that David Rathband held Mr Herbert in as much regard as does every other officer in the country. Yet Mr Herbert felt he should attend the memorial service? The fact he did is for him but why tweet about it?

I have been to far too many funerals of colleagues. Those who have been ill and died too soon and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice whilst on duty. They are all painful but the latter even more so. Yet when the death of a police officer hits the national media politicians feel the need to show their faces. It happens time and time again. The assumption is they care and wish to show their respects. Perhaps personally or on behalf of their party or HM Government. In reality it is a token gesture. A rock and a hard place. I don’t envy Mr Herbert having to make a decision to attend or not. How does it feel to be damned if you do and damned if you don’t Mr Herbert? Join the club because that’s how every officer in the country feels right now. Your pièce de résistance though was that tweet. In 24 words you managed to astound every police officer in the country.

The police service in this country is being decimated and as numbers reduce the risk of officers being placed in the position that David was are only likely to increase. I have a strong desire to write out my wishes in the event of my death occurring whilst on duty. It will involve a service as small or as large as it needs to be to accommodate my family, my friends, my colleagues and those who truly cared about me and about policing. Not a stream of politicians who turn up for no other reason than to actually be there and fly their own or their parties flag.


15 thoughts on “Mixed Messages”

  1. Absolutely spot on. I’m sure every police officer would agree with this (I’m not one by the way). The one man ripping the heart out of the police service may have had to attended the funeral out of duty but tweeting the fact was his own doing. Good luck in your job and thank you.

  2. most people carnt even imagine what any of the emergency services have to cope with as part of their job. Its a job most people would not want for themselves but when they need help your always there, thankfully.

    Some people do appreciate what you all do .

  3. Boom! Nail—-head, hit good and proper. I have made an explicit set of rules which state no politician or soap star (yes, true I have seen it at another officer funeral) will be at my last leaving doo. I might make an exception for royalty having sworn an oath and all that.

  4. I can’t comment on whether the criticism of Herbert & May’s policies is justified, but I am touched by the fact that you’ve taken the time to write this. I have a number of retired and serving police officers from various forces in my family, so I have some understanding of the sense of community, and even brotherhood, the the police feel for each other. When my Dad was still in the job, he observed that ‘the reason why we all stick together is because nobody else gives a shit about us’. On another occassion he said ‘I don’t have workmates. I have comrades.’

    My university dissertation was about the Federation, in the course of which I read about a Dutch officer who had been badly injured in a house fire he attended. The RUC police magazine published a little piece on him and asked members to write to him with supportive messages. I did, and not only did he take the time to reply, he mentioned that since he had been off on the sick he had received messages from officers from about seven or eight different countries.

    As for Herbert’s tweet – what can you say? Could he not have sent a letter of condolence to the family privately, saying ‘I’m happy to respect your wishes on whether I attend the service or not.’? He had the choice of behaving either like a human being or a politician, and in choosing the latter he’s failed at both.

  5. Excellent letter, 100% explains my objection to Workfare too.

    I too was either a Trotski or an Elitist Snob, whichever side the Government got out of bed that morning. My attention was drawn to Workfare during the now famous Tesco advert. I am still speechless how Lib Dems cannot see either the truly frightening ideological undertones of compelling the sick and dying to work for state support, nor the extremely damaging effect it will have on the true unemployment situation in this country. The ONS figures will be distorted for years as businesses struggling for survival hurl themselves toward the vast ocean of unemployed people and taking them for free as casual labour, thus avoiding actually hiring them and paying them to going rate. It’s sheer madness at it’s mildest.

    Ditto too about Sarah Teather. After being a life long supporter of Labour it was listening to Sarah that made me beleive I could trust the Lib Dems more than I could trust Labour. Her words about Workfare and my objections to it are her the ultimate betrayal of my trust. I tend not to let people in her position have a second chance to make me feel a mug.

    Seeing as Lib Dems are now polling at just 8% in recent polls, this is all a footnote anyway. After years of courting the student vote, Lib Dems killed that support overnight wiht tuition fees and now they’ve killed my support too over Workfare and the NHS – me and many, many thousands of straight thinking people like me. Go back to your constituencies and prepare to have your chickens come home to roost…

  6. When I saw that tweet earlier today, I desperately wanted to respond. Out of respect to David Rathband, I bit my lip in fear that what I wrote may dishonour his memory. I wish to thank you for conveying so eloquently what it was I wanted to say.

  7. Maybe you (the police) should stop bashing us on demos then, and join us in the fight against this Government.

  8. Can’t agree. If the family were happy for him to be there, it’s not down to anyone else to gripe, no matter what his job.

    “As for Herbert’s tweet – what can you say? Could he not have sent a letter of condolence to the family privately, saying ‘I’m happy to respect your wishes on whether I attend the service or not.’?”

    How do you know he didn’t?

    1. True, I don’t. But even though I made an assumption, after thinking about it I’ve concluded that even if he did ask, to have broadcast his attendance in the way that he did means he was doing what he did for political reasons rather than because it was the right thing to do.

      If ‘integrity is doing the right thing while nobody’s looking’ (anonymous but still a good rule of thumb for me) then the fact that he told the world ‘look at me, look at me, I was THERE!!!!!’ removes any moral worth in his being there.

      1. And maybe he ‘broadcast’ where he was because he knew if he didn’t, he’d get asked if he had attended.

        Still, it doesn’t matter what he does, because he’s taking political decisions you don’t agree with, he’s beyond the pale, isn’t he?

  9. Please accept a contrary view from someone who neither a police officer or a fan of the Coalition Government and it’s shortsighted policies.

    Politicians and anyone else in public life – or indeed any top job – HAVE to be seen to be showing respect in all sorts of situations such as this.

    You will never know whether a person is there because he HAS to be there, or because he WANTS to be there.

    What you DO know is that he will be invariably be criticised for being uncaring/arrogant/ insulting if he is NOT there.

    Hard to win, in cases such as this.

    1. I’d agree that it is a hard to win situation. Hence my “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” reference. However, there is a point here.

      “They HAVE to be seen to be showing respect in all sorts of situations as this.”

      Why? We may never know why Mr Herbert attended this service. He may have gone at the request of the family or he may just have turned up because he felt he should. If the former then I withdraw my criticism of his attendance but not his tweet. If the latter then it is hard to see why he did attend other than for the sake of appearances.

      1. You’re right. The Tweet was a bit “look at me”, whereas the attendance itself has to be taken on face value.

  10. It was not lost that MR Glegg who was just. 5 minutes away decided that the pride of Britain winner, did not deserve a break in their rally calls at the Sage.
    Absence in their numbers really does speak louder than words.

    Even his patrons decided not to attend the memorial, how sad is that.

    I like so many other officers understand how the proposed cuts will have a major effect on not only services, but the safety of the men and woman trying to serve the public.

    Having served as a police officer I have seen change after change, some good and most bad, but they still keep coming.

    My challenge is and always will be this.

    When you stand up and bang your drum, make sure your words are followed by actions that show the real reason. Riding on David’s memory is a cheap shot and one that I do not support.

    David Rathband has fallen and the support I can tell you was not good enough.

    They, I am sure will be able to show the welfare report and the records of what they did for one of their own. It will not show how long it took him to get it, or will it show the support he did not get.

    The blue lamp is only the start of what David hoped, the whole emergency services need to stand up as a family. You may lose a collegue in the weeks,years that are to follow.If you remain silent you may have only pictures to remember your loved one by.

    When Northumbria police were asked to allow him to book off at Etal lane, the response was this, ” the chief said, that is not happening”

    Just before the family were told, ” you have 3 nights in a hotel, and that is it”
    The federation, defendants trust or any other internal organization have certainly not helped the family.

    The fed rep met David some time ago and said,” your better off dead”, well the sentiment was not lost then and it certainly is not lost now.

    You have lost a brother yet again as I have. The difference this time he was my twin brother, that’s what I know.

    David Rathband

    Always with me big brother…..


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