90 days from today is Fri, 20 December 2019
29 July 2019
If a bike ride of more than 200 miles over two days was not enough to contend with then heavy rain certainly added to the challenge faced by the three representatives of West Midlands Police who took part in the annual Police Unity Tour sponsored bike ride to raise funds for the charity Care of Police Survivors (COPS).
But, despite the wet weather, the trio – Chief Constable Dave Thompson, West Midlands Police Federation chair Rich Cooke, and Force academic researcher Gill Wall – were left in no doubt that their efforts had been worthwhile when they heard fallen officers’ family members talk about the lifeline offered to them by COPS at the charity’s annual remembrance service on Sunday.
“The bike ride was definitely testing at times,” said Rich, “I think covering that distance was always going to be a bit of a trial but the weather certainly made it even more difficult. I just kept in mind who we were riding for and that kept me going.
“Having changed out of my cycling gear, which was absolutely wet through once we came to the end of route, it was quite moving to listen to those who spoke during the service to explain how COPS had helped them through their darkest days. I am really pleased to have been able to support the charity’s work and, in turn, offer support to fallen officers’ families.”
Through COPS, the families of fallen officers are able to support each other while the charity also provides access to counselling services to help ‘survivors’ rebuild their lives. Each year it holds a family weekend for fallen officers’ families culminating in a remembrance service at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.
Ahead of the service, those taking part in the Police Unity Tour ride, including representatives from forces across England and Wales who set off from various points across the country on Friday, followed the Blue Knights motorcyclists into the arboretum where they were greeted by a raincoat-clad and umbrella-holding crowd.
The service, held in an open-sided marquee, was attended by Steve Grange, secretary of West Midlands Police Federation, and the West Midlands Band also performed.
It was opened by the national president of COPS, Gill Marshall who was widowed when her husband died on duty in 2006 when their two daughters were two and four.
She spoke of how COPS had helped her re-build her life, with the support of other fallen officers’ families through the charity, giving her ‘a sense of belonging in the darkest of moments’.
That was a similar theme for the other family members of fallen officers who, as is the norm for the COPS service, gave accounts of their own experiences.
This year’s speakers were: Angela Morgan, fiancée of DC Gary Freeman (36) of Derbyshire Constabulary, who died along with DC Anthony Thornley when their vehicle was in collision with a lorry on 19 August 1994; George Parker, son of PC Andy Parker (30) of North Wales Police who died in a motorbike crash on his way home from a night shift on 23 September 2005; Greg Lashmar, son of PC Brian Lashmar (39) of the Met, who also died in crash on his way back from night duty, on 24 January 1989, and Donna Cox, sister of PC Jo-Ann Jennings who was 23 when she was killed in a patrol car responding to a disturbance on 12 November 1989.
Denis Gunn, past president of COPS, read out the names of the officers added to the roll of honour since the last COPS service in July 2018:
Special Agent Nole Remagen (42) of the United States Secret Service, who died on 17 July 2018, two days after suffering a stroke while on presidential protection duty in Scotland;
PC Joseph Cooke (39) of the Met who injured his shoulder while making an arrest. While having surgery on the injury, five months later, he suffered a brain injury which proved fatal on 25 December 2018;
PC Daniel Clayton-Drabble (24) of Thames Valley Police, who was killed in an accident as he drove home from work on 26 December 2018;
PC Kevin Flint (52) of Thames Valley Police who died on 15 January 2019 when his motorbike was in collision with a car as he drove home from work; and
PS Colin Michael Fox of the Metropolitan Police who died on 1 May 2019.
After the service, which was closed by Sir Peter Fahy, the COPS chair of trustees, guests headed to The Beat, an avenue with a tree dedicated to each force, to pay a further tribute to their fallen officers.
As part of the Police Unity Tour, all riders wear a wristband featuring the name of a fallen officer which is presented to the family of that officer where possible at the end of the ride.