What does the number 4 mean to you?
What does the number 9 mean to you?
Let me tell you what they mean to me today.
4 is the number of police officers who have already died in the line of duty in 2013.
9 is the number of officers who died in 2012.
There are only 3 currently on the 2013 list but sadly the news from Hampshire Police today means it has increased to 4.
The impact of such losses always remind police officers of how fragile we are. We get up and go to work just like anybody else. We use the bus, train, tube, bicycle, motorbike and car to get to work. We are no different to anyone else. Tragedy can strike anyone, anywhere. Police officers are not unique in this area. In an odd way, a fact of life, is death. We cannot escape it. It comes to us all.
The rise of the use of social media by police officers and forces in the UK and worldwide has been very successful. Individual officers, teams and forces have done some great engagement work to highlight some of the excellent work we do on a day to day basis. Officers regularly put their own lives at risk to try and save others. Only today we have read about Sgt Bailey from Humberside Police who jumped into a freezing river to save a 77 year old man. Social media allows officers around the country to chat, engage, share news, stories, best practice, jokes and debate about all sorts of matters. Officers that in previous years would never have spoken to one another can now build rapport and friendship. The 43 forces of England and Wales are coming closer together. We often talk of the police family and social media has allowed us to draw closer together on a national scale. It’s easy to see how small our country really is. The downside is that when tragedy befalls one force, as today, the news spreads quickly. In years gone by we may have missed the national news. We may have been 100’s of miles away from the force concerned. We may never have heard about it. Nowadays the news is there in front of us on Twitter or Facebook in seconds. Suddenly, a loss at the other end of the country hits as hard as one in our own force.
This could be viewed as a negative of social media. Better to be blissfully unaware and shielded from pain? I think not. The immediacy of social media allows us to connect with our colleagues around the country and pass our condolences. Those close to the fallen officer know we care. I hope it’s reassuring to them to know that we stand shoulder to shoulder with them in their sorrow. Never is there a better time to use social media to show colleagues and the public how strong the police family is.
Behind every police officer is a family. Wife, husband, children, partner, mum or dad. They are the backbone of the service. The unsung heroes that tolerate the anti-social hours, the missed birthdays and celebrations and rest day cancellations. They are the glue that keep the officer in one piece both mentally and physically to be able to turn out and do what we are called to deal with day in – day out. They are the people who listen to us when we can talk about things and hug and hold us when we can’t. They are the people who stay at home and worry about us as we turn out to duty. They worry because whilst we are exposed to all the same risks as everyone else, we also put ourselves in harms way and increase that risk. They worry about the knock at the door which I’ve mentioned previously.
In the police we are very good at picking up the pieces and moving on. We are very good at keeping a cool head whilst all around are losing theirs. We are very good at putting our emotions on the back burner and facing down what is in front of us. It almost becomes programmed into our psyche. Whilst we never forget those officers who have fallen in the line of duty, we do move on. The ‘job’ still needs our attention.
Sadly the lingering devastation that is left behind after the loss of an officer is not found in the police station. It is behind the doors of that officers home. Their family. The family that have supported, encouraged, hugged, held, loved and lost. They are not just that officers family though. They are part of the police family and as such we owe them a duty of care.
Police friends, forces, and the federation all offer support but this is a long term need and this is where UK COPS steps into the picture. Care of Police Survivors (otherwise known as COPS) is a UK registered charity dedicated to helping the families of police officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty, rebuild their lives. It aims to ensure that survivors have all the help they need to cope with such a tragedy, and that they remain part of the police family.
This year is their 10th anniversary. Nationally we are becoming more aware of how many police officers die or are killed on duty. UK COPS needs your support now more than ever. You may have seen the #ukcops10 hashtag on Twitter? This is something I discussed with them recently about raising funds around the number 10. Can you buy 10 anniversary wrist bands and sell them on to your team at work? Can you do a sponsored 10 mile run or climb 10 mountain peaks? Can 10 police officers cycle from John O’ Groats to Lands End? It could be as simple as making a £10 donation or getting 10 people to follow them on Twitter. Anything that raises the charity profile and increases funds to support the families of our fallen colleagues is a not a good thing to do; it’s an EXCELLENT and ESSENTIAL thing to do.
Every police officer has a collar number but they are so much more than just a number. I implore you to stand for our fallen colleagues and the families that are left behind. Get involved with UK COPS. Do something. Do anything… don’t do nothing.