PermaLink Reflecting on a very difficult time10/09/2012 02:59 PM
The funerals for Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone were dignified but painful events where the shock of two young lives lost hit home hard. It is has been incredibly difficult time for the families of Nicola and Fiona.

Not only have they suddenly and violently lost a daughter, sister and loved one they have been suddenly been thrust into the middle of a huge public and media event. They have also had to come to terms with the fact that Fiona and Nicola were members of another family called GMP which feels their loss very deeply.

As we keep on saying the support of the public and of colleagues across the country, and indeed the world, has been incredible. I have only had the chance to read a small proportion of the letters that have come into my office but the care people have taken and the depth of their emotion is striking and very moving. At the same time we have received around 50,000 similar messages of condolence online.

It is hard to make sense of all of this such has been the weight of events. The way the media covered the services in such a respectful way and broadcast the services made them into almost national events. The range of organisations and individuals who have contacted the force, who just turned up on Deansgate has shown how hard and deep the deaths of Nicola and Fiona have hit people.

The reaction of the police service with so many colleagues offering to come to Manchester to show their support has been unprecedented. Yet at the heart of this are two young women who loved the job they were doing and were just going about their duties when they met their deaths. And at the heart are two families devastated by the loss of their loved ones but comforted by this great expression of public sympathy and by the way GMP, the people of Greater Manchester and the Police Service nationally have honoured Fiona and Nicola.

I have also been in awe of the professionalism of those involved in the planning of the two funerals; Fiona and Nicola's colleagues who acted as pall bearers and guard of honour in the full public and media glare and did it in such a dignified way, our Force Events Section which organised every last detail in a very tight timescale, our Special Escort Group who ensured the cortege arrived on time, the Mounted Section so immaculately turned out, the force chaplains, the force band, the piper ( who is one of our detective sergeants), the press office and the force photographers who captured the sad events so well and the results can be seen on the Flickr photo sharing website. I know there were many others involved but I should also pick out Ian Hanson the Chair of GMP Police Federation who has spoken on behalf of his members so powerfully.

The National Police Memorial Day the previous Sunday was an equally moving experience as we remembered all the police officers nationally who have lost their lives while serving the public. York Minster was full for the service and the Archbishop in his address spoke powerfully about how the desire of policing to be close to the community rather than aloof makes its officers more vulnerable. He said that peacemaking is a costly business. This Service has taken place annually for the last nine years. It has become a source of great comfort for the many families of police officers who have been killed on duty. While the media attention may shift, their pain and sense of loss continues over the years. They need to know that the country has not forgotten their sacrifice.

The country rightly recognises the fallen members of the armed services in November in ceremonies across the land. The number of police officers killed on duty cannot be compared to those killed in armed conflicts across recent history. The bravery and courage shown by our service men and women in Afghanistan is outstanding. It is right that this great sacrifice is held up for special national recognition every year. Police officers also take great risks however in service of the public and the National Police Memorial Day every year gives the chance to show national recognition of those who died taking those risks.

We shall never forget Nicola and Fiona. The pain of their loss will stay for many years particularly with their close colleagues and we will continue to support them. On the day of their deaths the staff of GMP continued to serve the public and do their duty despite the shock they were feeling. Every day we deal with death and tragedy, traumatic and distressing events and have to pick ourselves up and do what we have to do to protect the public and capture evidence. In the same way we will now have to move on as a force and concentrate on the challenges we face and which have not gone away.

Top of these is the fight against organised crime and taking out those who see violence, fear and intimidation as a way of life.

We have to continue with the changes to local policing which is a huge piece of work affecting many staff and will enable us to cope with some of the budget reductions we have we make

Most importantly we have to treasure and build upon this great level of public support we have seen over recent weeks. We do not take the support of the public as a given or take it for granted. In a democracy support and respect for policing has to be earned. A recent national poll showed that 79 per cent of the public trusted the police. I would suggest they make a distinction however between what they recognise as the remarkable efforts of individual officers day in day out and the various national stories of organisational failings which rightly are publicised when they occur.

The Police are criticised when it is felt they have stuck together or "closed ranks" to cover up wrongdoing or to use the power of the organisation against individuals - the public or sometimes its own staff. On the other hand there has been such a strong reaction from within policing to the deaths of Fiona and Nicola because we are one family and we have to be one team as we come together in different incidents and investigations using staff from different specialisms to get the best possible result. We have to ensure that the camaraderie and shared values and purpose of policing is always used in a positive way and our commitment to openness, integrity and professionalism always comes first.

That is the best tribute we can pay to Nicola and Fiona.

Sir Peter Fahy
Chief Constable Greater Manchester Police

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