Despite being ex-RAF Police, with oodles of mates who went on to join the civilian police, I’d never heard of UK COPS.
When I joined my current organisation I met a colleague who had taken part in the Police Unity Tour, with a special tandem bike borrowed by the business so a partially sighted work colleague could also take part. When he told me about the UK COPS, COPS being an acronym for Care Of Police Survivors, I was very interested.
So when the opportunity came up to go the National Memorial Arboretum, which is only 10 miles from my house, to see the Police Unity Tour and the UK COPS organisation I jumped at the chance.
I’m not quite sure of the relationship between the Police Unity Tour and UK COPS, obviously they’re synonymous with remembering slain officers and looking after their relatives, but I believe UK COPS is a charity and the Police Unity Tour is organised by the police themselves, much like Light The Lakes, where each rider wears a wristband in memory of an officer.
Anyway to the day itself, rain is falling and has been since Saturday, the beautiful weather we saw last week is gone and the heavens have opened. The day starts with a significant number of police cadets supporting the route which the cyclists will take into the Arboretum, as mentioned it’s raining and even with all their gear, it’s still cold when you get wet, so respect to these young men and women who stood for so long to line the route.
The crowds gather, a mix of high-ranking police officers, relatives, friends and supporters, a siren whelps in the distance, it’s not a UK police siren, the noise is strange as it is carried on the mist and rain.
A police car with it lights flashing rounds the path that goes around the main memorial at the Arboretum, followed by the riders from the Blue Knights, who are supporting the Police Unity Tour, numerous bikes file into the Arboretum followed by a standard, unmarked divisional traffic car, and then the cyclists.
There are 450+ cyclists and each one of them wears a wristband for a police officer who is no longer with us.
The impact is not lost, 450 people who went to do a job and never returned.
The riders go past, some are joyous, some reflect and others are overcome with emotion, as am I.
After the riders, the source of the strange siren appears, an old American style police car, decked out with more modern-day strobe lights.
Once the cyclists have arrived, people move to the marquee where they reunite with friends and colleagues and take their places, all the while being entertained by the West Midlands Police Band.
After a short while a piper plays some laments and the room falls silent, the service begins. I don’t take photographs of this, there are plenty of UK COPS photographers in the service and my equipment is absolutely soaked, as am I.
This is quite an event and I’m extremely moved, hopefully I’ll be able to attend next year, the weather will be better and I’ll get to see the wreath laying ceremony on The Beat.
If you want to donate to UK COPS, you can support this wonderful charity here.
On a final note, one of my very good friends, when I was in the RAF Police, was a chap called Barry Davies, shortly after I left our the unit at which we were both based he left the RAF and joined Dyfed Powys Police. Barry sadly died in a car accident within a few years of joining the force.
This blog post is dedicated to him.