Home Secretary, Commissioner, Ladies and Gentlemen, I really could not be more delighted to be here with all of you this evening to help present the Police Bravery Awards 2007 celebrating the very best of British policing.
Ladies and Gentlemen, these awards, established twelve years ago, as you all know, provide all of us with the opportunity to show our appreciation of the work undertaken by some very remarkable officers in often difficult and life-threatening circumstances which we have been able to witness this evening.
Every day each of us relies, without question (but perhaps we sometimes take it too much for granted...), on their professionalism, their skill and expertise not only to protect us, but to defend our democratic way of life and uphold the rule of law. We have witnessed only very recently the challenges from terrorism which put the police service in the front line and renders their task even more difficult. But they have risen to that challenge as to so many others - with a quiet authority and professionalism and with astonishing good humour in often impossible circumstances - for which this country owes them a very real debt of gratitude. I think I understand at least some of that good humour believe it or not, I can remember since my youngest days being brought up with a whole succession of policemen!
Some of you may know that last year I was invited to become the Patron of the National Police Memorial Day - a position I accepted with great pride. This evening it has given me equal pride to meet some of the families who have had to suffer the incomprehensible loss of their loved ones in the line of duty. The price they have had to pay is unbearably high, and we are left struggling, inadequately, to find a way of saluting the selfless and devoted courage shown by those who gave their lives. Their example and the valour they have shown should, I think, act as an inspiration to us all, as well as reminding us of the extraordinary quality of so many of those who want to be of service to others through joining the police.
One of the very special features of the police service is the strong bond of friendship and support that exists amongst officers and their families. I can only imagine how utterly invaluable this is in times of grief, sorrow and fear and, of course, in the good times too.
Thankfully, of course, the majority of officers do return safely and we perhaps need to remember that it is with their family’s support and understanding that they are able to undertake an immensely challenging job. So I think that we owe the families a debt of gratitude too. All I can say is that I, along with so many others in this country, have the most enormous pride in the British Police Service and the officers who make it as special and admired as it is. This evening gives me a rare public opportunity to thank the police who help to protect myself and my family and others in public life I do know what a remarkable job they do and it is not to be taken for granted. Perhaps, on this special occasion, I may be allowed to offer my heartfelt thanks on behalf of the whole nation to this country’s 140,000 officers and their families.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this evening we are celebrating some exceptional officers and I am delighted that, thanks to the Police Federation and “The Sun” newspaper, they need not be anonymous heroes, but properly recognized for their courage and gallantry. We will hear them say, I am sure, that “they were just doing their job”. Perhaps they were; but it is an exceptional job and they are exceptional people.
Ladies and gentlemen, my warmest congratulations go to all of this evening’s winners and nominees and I take the greatest pride in announcing that the overall winner of the Police Bravery Awards 2007 is .... P.C. Geoffrey Hince from Greater Manchester Police.