Newark: Notts cops cycle in memory of colleagues
Cyclist cops have been racking up the miles and celebrating the lives of colleagues past and present as they embarked on a charity ride across the East Midlands.
Officers from Nottinghamshire joined colleagues from across the UK for the Police Unity Tour, a ride which increases awareness and honours police officers who have died in the line of duty.
As the ride stopped off at Nottinghamshire Police’s force headquarters on Friday (July 30) officers were able to take a lunch break and also reflect on what the ride is all about, with a small memorial ceremony being held in the courtyard.
The tour enters its ninth year in 2021, which sees cyclists ride into the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire to take part in the Care of Police Survivors (COPS) annual service of remembrance and family weekend.
Since 1749, almost 5,000 police officers and staff have died whilst policing our communities, over 1,500 through acts of violence, and COPS provides peer support opportunities and brings together the families of police officers who have lost their lives on duty, as well as helping with access to counselling and specialist bereavement services.
The rides comes just days after the unveiling of a national memorial in Staffordshire for officers killed in the line of duty, which was given royal seal of approval by Prince Charles at a special ceremony.
This year’s ride began at Derbyshire Constabulary’s headquarters, moving on to Nottinghamshire Police’s force headquarters before the afternoon stretch which took the riders down to Leicester.
Detective Constable Sarah Stables is the ride president for the East Midlands chapter. She said: “It’s definitely a challenge, but each of the rides go forward in unity and with pride and as such we bring everybody along together at a sensible, sociable pace.
“We always try to make it uplifting and spur people on as one team, our saying is that there’s ‘no rank in Lycra’. But, the whole event is for sure a moving experience, remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice and culminating in the service on Sunday.
“The riders have done a terrific job and have been so dedicated to the challenge, and the funds and awareness I’m sure the ride will raise is going to make a huge difference, showing solidarity with the families of those we have sadly lost in service.
DC Ben Skellern of the Modern Slavery Team and PC Jez Gascoyne of the Mansfield Response team were two of the officers from Nottinghamshire Police taking part.
PC Gascoyne said: “This bike ride is a tribute to our fallen police officers and staff, and we’re doing this to show our appreciation for what they did.”
The ride is the second time DC Skellern has taken part, and he said: “It was a fantastic reception coming in to Notts headquarters as always. Great emotion coming in and it really is a great charity.”
Chief Constable Craig Guildford said: “It’s important that we remember the sacrifice our fallen colleagues made and their contribution to policing, and it’s an honour to welcome the ride to our headquarters.
“The ride was just one way to owe it those who have laid down their lives to keep us safe and protect us from harm, and show them a huge debt of gratitude.
“Policing and your colleagues do become like a second family and when an officer loses their life in service, it is devastating.
“The riders taking part have done a fantastic job and have shown a great amount of determination in covering the distance of the ride. The event and culminating service is always a humbling experience and a fantastic way to pay our respects to those we have lost in service.
“The atmosphere on the ride is a celebration of the police family and its resilient spirit, even in the face of tragedy, and we of course will take any opportunity to show solidarity and support those families who have unfortunately suffered such a loss.”
The riders were also joined by Matthew Walker, the son of PC Ged Walker who was killed in service after his efforts to stop a stolen taxi in January 2003. PC Walker’s widow, Tracy Walker, was there to welcome the ride into force headquarters.
She said: “The riders have done a fantastic job on a tough ride and it was great to be there to welcome them.
“Ged’s death was completely out of the blue. He was simply conducting routine police work which escalated and I’m sure he never went to that job expecting not to come home. It shows how unpredictable policing can be, and this weekend really highlights that and shows support for the job officers do.
“It was lovely to see Matthew as well as the two Nottinghamshire officers representing the force.”
The riders also remembered Christopher McDonald, who was Nottinghamshire’s first officer to lose his life in the line of duty. He was 19 years old when he was killed after responding to a burglary in Worksop.
Christopher's mother, Joan Hufton, said: "Christopher's death was absolutely a shock, at such a young age and not long into his service.
"It's comforting to see such support for families like us who have suffered the tragic loss of a loved one in the line of duty, and the efforts of the riders in this challenge have been brilliant.
"It's moving to see everyone coming together and raising both money and awareness for the job that officers do.
Mr Guildford was accompanied by family of both Mr Walker and Mr McDonald at the unveiling of the National Memorial Arboretum earlier this week.
The Prince of Wales was among those at a dedication ceremony at the £4.5m memorial and garden created at the Staffordshire site, where a minute's silence was held.
The UK Police Memorial is the result of a six-year fundraising campaign.