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Remember our brave police officers

Column by Grantham district and county councillor, and former police officer, Ray Wootten

This year the annual National Police Memorial Day should have been held on Sunday, September 27, but it has been postponed until 2021 due to Covid-19.

This day remembers those police officers who gave their lives on and off duty, serving their community.

Coun Ray Wootten (10453756)
Coun Ray Wootten (10453756)

Every day, police officers carry out their duty with one thing foremost in their mind, which is to protect life and property and to uphold the law.

Sadly, as long as police officers are prepared to take risks in the protection of their communities, it is inevitable that officers will be injured on duty and some will pay the ultimate price.

The National Police Officers Roll of Honour pays tribute to as many as 5,000 police officers who have lost their lives since the earliest days of professional law enforcement, including deaths as a result of criminal acts, terrorism and revenge attacks both on and off duty.

The recent horrific killing of Pc Andrew Harper on August 15, 2019, occurred when he tried to stop three men from stealing a quad bike in Berkshire.

Pc Harper’s widow, Lissie, has called for tougher long-term sentences, after launching her Harper’s Law campaign, to bring extra protection for officers and other frontline workers. This campaign has the support of the Secretary of State MP Priti Patel, who is supporting a police covenant for greater protection for the police.

Rank and file serving officers and the public at large, along with our own police and crime commissioner Marc Jones, fully support Harper’s Law.

Etched in my memory are the killings of Yvonne Fletcher, fatally wounded by a shot fired from the Libyan Embassy in 1984, along with Pc Keith Palmer, who was murdered outside the Houses of Parliament in 2017, and Pc Frank Mason, killed in Hemel Hempstead in 1988 after he stumbled on an armed robbery.

There are many more. On October 6, 35 years ago, Pc Keith Blakelock was murdered during rioting at the Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham, North London.

Pc Blakelock was dispatched to protect firefighters who were under attack, when he was surrounded by a mob of around 50 people, resulting in 40 injuries inflicted by machetes and, he had a six-inch knife imbedded in his neck – barbaric and inhumane on an unarmed officer doing his duty. Although arrests were made and charges brought, to date there have been no convictions.

Pc Blakelock was posthumously awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for bravery in 1988.

Sergeant David Pengally, armed with only a shield and truncheon, placed himself in front of the crowd in an effort to save Pc Blakelock, and he was awarded the George Medal for his act of great bravery.

I hope one day fresh evidence comes to light to hold those to account for this horrendous murder.

On Sunday, along with all retired and serving personnel, I will take time out of my day to remember our brave officers and I trust the public will do the same.

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