The critical support provided to the families of fallen officers by Care of Police Survivors (COPS) was brought home to those attending the charity’s 20th annual Service of Remembrance at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire on Sunday.
Chief Constable Nick Dean represented the Force at the event and was on hand to welcome a team of Cambridgeshire Police officers who took part in the Police Unity Tour, a sponsored cycle ride raising money for COPS, which arrived at the arboretum ahead of the service.
Cambridgeshire Police Federation workplace representative Lee Hurley represented the branch at the service.
“The COPS service demonstrates the fantastic peer support network that the charity provides,” says Liz Groom, chair of Cambridgeshire Police Federation.
“Each year, relatives of fallen officers address the service, explaining the impact of an officer’s death on their lives and highlighting how the support of COPS had helped them move forward.
“I would like to put on record my thanks to all our PUT riders who completed the ride to the arboretum to show support for fallen officers’ families and raise fund that will enable the charity to continue its work.
“Having set off on Friday, I am sure they are now shattered, but I am sure they were buoyed by the fact that the families are so appreciative of their efforts.”
The service included a roll of honour including the names of the officers who have died since last year’s COPS service:
PC Daniel Golding of the Metropolitan Police who died on 18 August 2022;
PCSO Daniel Gower of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary who died on 23 November 2022;
PS Steven Creal of Sussex Police who died on 21 December 2022;
PC Richard Kemp of Lancashire Constabulary who died on 27 December 2022;
PC Bruce Lister of Hertfordshire Police who died on 30 January 2023;
PC Neil Pattinson of Northumbria Police who died on 27 February 2023;
PC Andy Boardman of West Mercia Police who died on 11 April 2023, and
Inspector Gareth Earp of Dyfed Powys Police who died on 29 June 2023.
Ahead of the service, those attending welcomed the arrival of the Blue Knights, the world’s largest law enforcement motorcycle club and supporter of COPS from the time of the charity’s launch.
Minutes later, cyclists from the Police Unity Tour (PUT), made up of chapters from forces across England and Wales, made their way into the arboretum to applause from the crowd.
The Cambridgeshire chapter of the tour was made up of 19 riders and a support team of two and this year’s ‘Ride Award’ was presented to Inspector Caroline Scully due to her ever energetic and organised commitment to the tour over several years.
Liz explained: “She really is one amazing lady and gives so much of her time to this cause and many others!”
The cyclists set off from their home force areas on Friday and ride to Drayton Manor in Staffordshire on the Saturday to be greeted by the families of fallen officers.
They then head to the arboretum on the Sunday morning for the last leg of their journey.
The remembrance service was opened by Christine Fulton, co-founder of COPS and the charity’s life vice-president.
She talked about the dark days that followed the death of her husband of two years in Glasgow in 1994. PC Lewis Fulton was just 28 when he was stabbed to death as he sought to detain a knifeman who had already injured a police sergeant.
But her life changed when retired police officer Jim McNulty encouraged her to attend a COPS service in America.
Thinking it would be an ‘interesting holiday’, she was unprepared for the impact the trip to the States would have on her and recalled that it was the first time she had found herself in a room full of people who understood how she felt which lifted a huge weight off her shoulders.
Realising how valuable that support would have been if she had received it at the start of her grieving process, Christine wrote to all chief constables when she returned to the UK seeking support for the launch of a similar organisation but was largely told that it was a ‘dreadful idea’ and that families did not want to remember their loss, but wanted to forget.
Undeterred, Christine forged ahead, telling the service that she expected 34 survivors to attend the first event, but 64 turned up.
Peer support, she explained, was at the heart of the charity, adding that 300 family members were at this year’s service.
The family weekend could be life-changing and life affirming, said Christine.
“It proves you can move forward but you don’t leave your officer behind,” she added, “They are always with you. They are part of you, and always will be.”
Caroline Cox, younger sister of Inspector Mark Estall of Essex Police who died on 5 January 2017, talked about the positive impact COPS had on her life, describing it as ‘an incredible charity’.
She began by thanking all the PUT riders.
“You will never know how much it means to us,” said Caroline on behalf of fallen officers’ families, “To us, it means everything.”
In a similar vein, Katy McMurray, daughter of PC Alan McMurray of Lothian and Borders Police who died on 4 February 2006, when she was just two, talked about how the charity had helped her.
Katy recalled how meeting other children who had lost a police officer parent through COPS had helped her process her emotions and access support when she needed it.
The service also included music from the West Midlands Police Band, songs from vocalist Diane Whylie and an address from Gill Marshall, the COPS national president.
Wreaths were laid on behalf of the Office of the Lieutenancy, the High Sheriff’s Office, the Home Office, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Fire & Rescue Services, the National Police Chiefs Council, Blue Light, the Police Unity Tour, the National Memorial Arboretum and COPS.
As Sir Peter Fahy, chair of the COPS trustees, prepared to close the service, the National Police Air Service helicopter flew over and performed a ‘bow’ to the congregation.
Families and other guests then made their way to The Beat – the avenue of trees dedicated to each force and to some individual officers – to lay red roses and wreaths.