A memorial dedicated to police officers who have lost their lives while on duty has been unveiled at a ceremony attended by HRH The Prince of Wales and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The UK Police Memorial, which is located at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire, honours those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice while on duty protecting their communities.
The magnificent 12-metre-tall sculpture will act as a place for loved ones, friends, colleagues and members of the public to go to remember fallen officers.
Addressing an audience of 400, as well as those who were watching live from home, Prince Charles said: “I pray this memorial will provide a place to pay tribute and provide reassurance that those who have given their lives will leave a lasting legacy and will never be forgotten.”
He expressed his “profound gratitude” to “those who have laid down their lives” to protect the public and paid tribute to “those who continue to serve” today.
The ceremony was also attended by Home Secretary Priti Patel and the national chair of the Police Federation, John Apter, as well as serving police officers and many families of those who have died while on duty.
In a pre-recorded message, the Prime Minister said: “It takes a very special kind of person to be a police officer. When you put on that uniform, you know there’s a chance, however small that is, that you won’t be going home, yet you continue to do it anyway.”
He continued to thank the police service for providing the country with “safety, security and freedom”, adding that members of the public are only able to walk down the streets without fear because police officers are standing between them and danger.
“We must never take that for granted and we must never forget. No words can describe what we owe your fallen colleagues,” he said, before ending by calling the British police force, the finest in the world.”
After the ceremony, John Apter said: “It’s really important the memorial – along with other memorials across the country – is recognised for what it is intended. That is to remember the supreme sacrifices colleagues have made over a great many years.
“It was an honour to have attended and to lay a wreath on behalf of the 130,000 police officers the Federation represents. This memorial will be especially important to colleagues and ensure friends and colleagues will always be remembered – they will never be forgotten.”
The £4.5 million memorial, which took seven years to fundraise for and 12 months to build, was designed by Walter Jack Studio.
The sculpture is designed to look like a slightly ajar door, said to signify officers going into the unknown during their line of work on a daily basis.
Sir Hugh Orde, chair of The Police Arboretum Memorial Trust, explained that it is decorated with cut-out leaves, which represent the lives of the heroic officers lost.
During the ceremony, the National Police Air Service (NPAS) paid tribute to fallen officers by taking part in a fly past and “bowing” in front of the sculpture.
The British Police Symphony Orchestra performed, with singer Katherine Jenkins OBE closing the ceremony with the National Anthem.
The event comes two months before this year’s annual National Police Memorial Day, which will be taking place on Sunday 26 September, and the Care of Police Survivors (COPS) memorial service on Sunday (2 August).