Suffolk: The human toll of officers who put their lives on the line each day
PUBLISHED: 08:30 01 June 2014
Bruised and battered, the reputation of police officers has taken a buffeting in recent times.
Nationally scandals such as Hillsborough, the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, and Plebgate have poisoned some people’s view of those whose duty it is to protect and serve.
Officers are now under greater scrutiny than ever before. Morale-sapping financial cutbacks have added to the pressures they are under.
What has not changed is that police are almost always the first port of call in an emergency, with every officer potentially laying their life on the line.
Tragically some have paid the ultimate price.
In Suffolk their numbers are relatively small. But for their families the loss is something which they continue to carry with them when others have the luxury of moving on.
The most recent of the 28 Suffolk police officers to die on duty was Pc Cheryl Lloyd who was killed in a crash in West End Road, Ipswich, while responding to a 999 call in 2005. Her partner that day Pc Chris Neale was also seriously injured.
Memorials to Pc Lloyd and also to another officer, Det Con Clive Barratt, are located at the entrance to Martlesham police headquarters to serve as reminder of their sacrifice.
The 42-year-old’s death led her sister Sue Brace to become involved with COPS (Care of Police Survivors), a charity which helps the families of officers who die in the line of duty.
Mrs Brace, of Foxgrove Lane, Felixstowe, is currently its president and received an MBE in 2011 for her work with the organisation.
She said: “We were lucky that Cheryl was in the police force because, if not, we would never have had the help and support we have had.
“It is a huge thing to have that support. It means so much. You are not equipped because everybody suffers from having a loved one die and they all walk that path of grief.
“However, nine out of 10 times when an officer dies, you are thrust into the limelight. You have a lot to cope with. With COPS there they understand what you are going through.
“After Cheryl’s death it was a shock, thinking she went out to look after people. Who looks after the police officers?
“You never think they are going to go to work and will not come home because they protect everybody.
“When you are first told it’s a feeling of horror, disbelief.
“People say to you ‘it gets easier when you get the first year out of the way’, but it doesn’t.
“You go through emotions of shock, disbelief, grief, anger – there is this emotional shock. The emotions are just hell.
“Cheryl went into the police at a later age because she wanted to give something back to the community. She was a real community person and just loved people. She thought she could make a difference. She was really funny, very cheeky and would give anybody her last cigarette or her last pound.
“At her funeral we had two letters read out. They were from young offenders Cheryl had arrested. They said she was such a nice lady and her death had really upset them. They said they would go on the straight and narrow.
“She made a difference. She made a difference to everybody she came into contact with.
“It’s only now, nine years later, that her colleagues can talk about it without getting upset.”
“It takes a special person to be a police officer. It’s a skill.
“They are special people doing a special job, like nurses.
“They are police officers, but they are also somebody’s husband, dad, wife, sister, brother.
“With everything that’s gone on within the service, it’s like any job, any business. You have got some people who are bad people.
“It’s a shame the focus is always on the bad side of things. There’s a lot of good people that are not recognised.
“They go to work. They have a job to do and they do it. You see it with the awards that are handed out to officers. I hope the public recognise what they do.”
Suffolk’s Chief Constable Douglas Paxton knows the risks and the challenges officers face after beginning his career as a constable in west Suffolk, before being promoted and moving out of the county, only to return as its top police officer last year.
Mr Paxton said: “Police officers face tough challenges every day in their line of duty and are trained to a very high standard to be able to deal with the varied situations they may encounter. Despite all of our efforts there are rare occasions when our colleagues make the ultimate sacrifice in the service of others.
“Losing an officer whilst on duty has a huge impact on the organisation as a whole but particularly on those who have worked closely with the officer who has lost their life. As a policing family we also never forget the loved ones left behind and take pride and great comfort from the support we can give to each other at these most difficult times.
“I welcome another occasion when we can all pause to pay tribute to the 28 officers have lost their lives whilst on duty in Suffolk.”
Nationally more than 1,600 police officers are recorded as dying while on duty dating back to the 1680s.
Among them are Pc Ian Dibell, 41, who died while trying to stop gunman Peter Reeve, after he fired at a couple in Clacton in July 2012.
In 2013 he was the first officer in the country for 21 years to receive the George Medal for gallantry.
At the time Essex Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh said the award honoured Mr Dibell’s “immense courage and sacrifice”.
Manchester police officers Nicola Hughes, 23, and Fiona Bone, 32, were lured to their deaths by Dale Cregan in September 2012.
The officers died in a gun and a grenade attack described as “premeditated savagery” while Cregan, 30, was on the run after murdering a father and son.
Police Constable David Rathband took his own life two years after being shot and blinded by gunman Raoul Moat.
The 44-year-old was out on patrol when Moat, 37, shot his former partner Samantha Stobbart and killed her new boyfriend Chris Brown in July 2010. After a tense stand-off he was shot dead.
Pc Rathband was found hanged at his home in Blyth, Northumberland, in February 2012.
The inquest into his death heard that his encounter with Moat was the “first step” in a series of events which led to the father-of-two’s suicide.
In 2009 Pc Gary Toms, 37, was fatally injured confronting suspects in a dead-end road in Leyton, east London. .
In 2007 Pc Ricky Grey, 43, was shot in the head in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. The gunman, Peter Medlicott, then turned the weapon on himself.
In 2005 Pc Sharon Beshenivsky was shot dead when she and a colleague tried to stop armed robbers in Bradford.
In 2004 Dc Michael Swindells, 44, died after he was knifed in the stomach as he and colleagues conducted a search in Birmingham.
Two officers were killed in 2003. Pc Ian Broadhurst, 34, of West Yorkshire police, was shot dead in Leeds on Boxing Day. David Bieber, 38, also shot two of Broadhurst’s colleagues. In January 2003 Dc Stephen Oake died during a police raid on a flat in, Manchester.