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.