This week has been an exceptionally sad one for the police service, with the tragic death of two officers from Greater Manchester police. Both unarmed and responding to a routine call, Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes were killed in the line of duty, simply going about their daily job – responding to one of the 9m calls for help that the police in this country receive each year.
The catastrophic events of this week serve as a reminder of just how real the dangers that the men and women of the police face day in, and day out, in order to protect the public from harm. The officers who died paid the ultimate price for their dedication and bravery. Our thoughts and prayers are with them, their family, friends and colleagues at Greater Manchester Police.
My colleague Chief Constable Peter Fahy has said that these officers exemplify the very best of British policing. They were delivering that neighbourhood service which is so important in our style of policing in this country. The British model has always relied on the close link between the public and the police, from neighbourhoods upwards. It is this relationship that breeds trust, confidence, and legitimacy. Minimum interference with the citizen and minimum use of force form a vital part of this bedrock. Quite simply, we police with the public's consent. That we are a routinely unarmed service is part of our identity and helps support the closeness and connection with the public.
Looking to colleagues in America, and across the world, it is strikingly obvious that bringing firearms into the policing equation does not solve the problem of violent crime, or protect officers from being injured or killed. When such catastrophic events happen it is so easy and understandable to look for ready solutions. That process, of openness to scrutiny and learning from events, is critical. Transparency is equally important to legitimacy in British policing. But the police service collectively does not want to routinely carry guns – we agree our relationship with the public we serve is too precious to jeopardise.
Recent days have been difficult ones for British policing. At such times we are sometimes asked about police morale, but what can never be questioned is the unswerving commitment that our officers have to serving our communities. This is the business of policing, and we go about it every day. Things do go wrong, mistakes are made, and when this happens, we are held to account.
The men and women of the service will continue, as ever, carrying out the job that they have sworn to do – protecting the public with dedication and courage, putting their lives on the line as they do so. For this, I remain immensely proud.