For police, peril is part of the job
If you were like me you were absolutely shocked and saddened at the news of the cruel murders of Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes, police officers gunned down responding to a hoax call of burglary at a house in Mottram, Greater Manchester.
This reminded us again of the risks that police officers take in keeping us safe 24/7, and that we so often take for granted. Today’s news is tomorrow’s history, however this is particularly difficult for the Greater Manchester Police who still feel the murder of committed Christian DC Stephen Oake in 2003, defending a colleague during an anti terrorist raid.
Much good came out from his inspirational life, and good will no doubt come out of this, however it leaves a mark and things are not the same again. They are the latest in a long line of police fatalities and the first such incident to involve two female officers.
The charity, Police Roll of Honour Trust, has named every UK officer who has been killed in the line of duty and the annual national Police memorial day will again mark this on 30 September at York Minister.
Policing is tough and speaking about their deaths, GMP Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy said: "Day in, day out, police officers go about their duty, go into dangerous situations, unexpected situations, and show great bravery, great courage and are with people at the very worst moments in their lives."
The camaraderie is strong like a family and when one is hurt, the others feel it. The humour can be a bit rich on occasions, but if you didn’t laugh you would cry. Life goes on - someone has to comfort loved ones, someone interview offenders, someone lead the investigation, someone has to make a decision around sufficiency of evidence, detention, bail. Someone has to clear out the lockers and pick up the paperwork they were dealing with. Someone has to lay them to rest, and someone has to go to the next call.
Incidents of this nature raise a moral panic and in particular a desire to revisit whether the police should be routinely armed. The vast majority of police officers don’t want to be as they feel it raises the stakes and encourages offenders to arm. As one of the very few countries in the world not to be armed, it is felt that doing so may change the good relationship between police and public. Weapons, as in America, tend to separate the police from the public. Although this is hard for those who have lost their lives and loved ones, surely this is the way to go for now, using the armed response capability that is there when needed, and reducing risk with officers improved equipment such as taser stun guns.
As for the death penalty Christians can argue it both ways, however I would side with former parliamentary consultant to the Police Federation Sir Eldon Griffiths who said: "The penalty for murdering our unarmed police needs to reflect the unique character of the risks that they are required to take. One way to do this would be to revive the police murder bill which imposed an automatic life sentence for the willful killing of police officers on duty – with no remission save in the case of a life prisoner's condition deteriorating to the point that no useful purpose would be served by continuing his confinement."
Of course the police aren’t perfect, remembering they are as good as the public they serve, and are to be rightly held to account for failings such as the recent Hillsborough enquiry findings. Messages of support to GMP have been overwhelming and this needs to be translated in continuing to get behind our ‘Bobbies’ across the UK, for God loves justice. As Romans 13:4 says ‘they are God’s servants to do you good’, and 2 Timothy 1:2 ‘pray for all those in authority that we may live peaceful and quiet lives’. The COACT initiative gives a range of ways you can support your police, and remember wherever you are and whatever you are doing, the safest place to be is putting your trust in Jesus Christ. With him you are always double crewed.
Paul Bright is Assistant Director of the Christian Police Association