Care of Police survivors cycle ride
I was very honoured to join the Leicestershire Team as we completed the Care of Police Survivors (COPS) Police Unity Tour 2015. A group of 12 of us with a superb support team set off from Headquarters on Friday morning after a multi faith blessing and rode to the National Arboretum at Alrewas. The actual journey isn’t very far away so we went via Rugby, Stratford upon Avon and Worcester. We stayed overnight at Police Headquarters before because heading off up through the Severn Valley to Ironbridge; for those of you who are interested I can give you my personal assurance that the Severn Valley is very hilly!
On Sunday morning we joined the COPS ride that came up from London and made up a peloton of 160 cyclists who rode into the Arboretum and joined the COPS Memorial Service. It was very touching to be able to ride with Vicky and Chris Moore, whose dad, Bryan, was killed on duty with Andy Munn in 2002. Vicky and Chris both spoke to us before the ride about what COPS had done for them and their family and it really brought the whole thing home.
I had asked Sandy Burton, wife of DC Tim Burton, who was killed in 2001 in a road accident, if I could carry a bracelet with his name on it and it was very emotional to hand that over to Sandy when we got to the Arboretum. BBC Radio Leicester showed a keen interest in what we were doing which meant I was able to do live interviews from various locations along the route. I must also thank West Mercia and Warwickshire Police Forces who threw their doors open at various Police Stations which allowed some fairly tired cyclists to eat and refresh themselves.
We were warmly welcomed along the way; none more so than by Chief Constable Dave Shaw who we found stood to attention at the gates to West Mercia Headquarters as we arrived on Friday evening in what can only be described as pouring rain! Friday’s weather was not quite what I had trained for! In my mind the sun would be reflecting back off the road surface and my main danger would be overheating or dehydrating; in reality rust became a likely enemy of the ride because it poured from the moment we got to Rugby until the following day. In fact it was so cold and wet that a couple of the riders started to show early signs of hypothermia and our support team earned their money looking after them and keeping us on the road. Saturday was a much more sensible day with the sun out and a nice cooling breeze although that felt like a headwind for much of the way. When I last looked at the fundraised total we had raised over £5,000 and it has been very touching to see who has supported us. I note that a number of you have supported me for which I am very grateful.
The Team was Vicky and Chris Moore, Kev Manship, Steve Kane, Daljinder Gill, Phil Kay, Laura Millward, Emma Gilbert, Jon Whale, Ryan Coleman, Marie Collis, Bobby Moore, Michael Phillips and myself. I want to single out Pete Williams whose outstanding preparation and leadership made the event possible. Pete had even cycled much of the route himself in advance to see that we would be able to get up and over some of the hills. Of course his careful planning came for nothing when we found a road closed but he used all his skills to get us beyond this slight problem! The 160 riders riding for COPS have raised over £75,000 this year, which is almost twice the amount raised last year.
I know that Pete has plans for next year and if you are at all interested then he is the man to contact. I would also like to say thank you to those who were ‘left behind’. Roger Bannister celebrated his last weekend as Assistant Chief Constable before promotion by holding the fort and covering various Chief Officer duties, including laying the wreath in full uniform both at the ceremony and at the tree in “The Beat”, the part of the Memorial Arboretum set out for Police Officers. This enabled me to just be a member of the Team for the weekend which I must say I really enjoyed.
It was lovely to arrive at the Arboretum and see family and friends including the Leicestershire Branch of the National Association of Retired Police Officers (NARPO) who thrust a cheque into my hand almost as soon as I got off my bike. Daljinder Gill had ridden in the name of PC John Davidson who died in a car crash in 1967. The Vice Chairman of NARPO, David Baker, received the bracelet from Daljinder as John was his best man all those years ago. I haven’t had such an emotional and fulfilling weekend in a long time.
It was particularly touching to be able to trace the relatives of Job Bennett. PC Bennett died on duty in 1881. We put out an appeal on the internet and through that, a genealogist got in touch to say that they thought that Job was related to them. Thus on Sunday morning after the service Emma Gilbert was able to present to Job’s great great granddaughter the bracelet bearing his name. Spookily, Job’s great great granddaughter Katie is married to a serving police officer, ACC Mark Hopkins of Cambridgeshire Police, who was doing the London wing of the ride!
Meanwhile the Force had what can only be described as a very busy Saturday night with a number of incidents which tested our professionalism and mobilisation into other Force areas. I am grateful to all colleagues for their commitment and efforts.
I have found myself receiving lots of correspondence and social media contact about hunting. The origin of this is a specific issue relating to one of the local hunts. The policing of hunting have always been a challenge. During my career hunting has been legal and then aspects of hunting with dogs have been made unlawful. We have had to walk the line between two passionate advocates of alternate views. In recent months I have had correspondence from those who hunt, decrying what they perceive to be a lack of action on our part in relation to the use of face coverings by protestors. I have also received correspondence and views from protestors who feel that we don’t allow them to protest and we are letting hunts continue to break the law.
Of course the truth is, as with anything, that we will follow the evidence. We will do that without fear and favour. If offences are committed by either side then we will deal with them as we believe to be appropriate, and in the best way to bring a resolution to the problems being described. It is striking how short some people’s memories seem to be. As a Force we have successfully prosecuted those who have broken the law in relation to hunting and brought them to justice. In the deluge of comment over the weekend I seem to be the only person that has remembered that! Of course another challenge for us is how we prioritise the policing of hunting against the other calls for service that we receive.
Simon Edens and Roger Bannister
After one last fish and chip meal, DCC Simon Edens has become Chief Constable of Northamptonshire. He has been an absolute rock for us here in Leicestershire. The first time I met Simon was in 2007 and what struck me then was his integrity, his intellect and his commitment to local people. These things have shone through during his time with us and as a Deputy he has dealt with just about everything that is possible to deal with with good grace and great skill. We wish Simon well and look forward to seeing him in his new role. We also congratulate ACC Roger Bannister on his promotion to DCC. We are currently looking on how to align the work of the Chief Officer Team as there are a number of options available to us which could include sharing an ACC for certain functionalities with neighbouring forces rather than just straight replacing Roger in his role. Of course that may well involve discussions with the new Chief Constable of Northamptonshire and today is his first day!
From Monday 27 July 2015 you’ll see a preview of the specials campaign including a teaser of the new promotional video which will be fully launched soon. Keep an eye out on social media and use #COULDYOU to join in the conversation.
I was pleased to be joined by colleagues for the Leicester Mercury Pride of Leicestershire Awards. This really showed the people of the area at their best, with huge efforts on behalf of local communities. Our own Special constable Izzy Kos, was nominated for an award.