Chief Constable, Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m so glad to have this opportunity to be able to give medals and certificates to so many of you here. It has become a little bit of a tradition over the years, but I can’t tell you how proud it makes me to be able to do this, and to congratulate you and to pay tribute to you all. Partly of course because we depend so much here on all your wonderful service and help, in the middle of the night, in the freezing cold and pouring rain and goodness knows what, being savaged by corgis from time to time! It is enormously appreciated, I assure you. Having met so many of you this morning I just hope that there are still some of you left manning different departments and posts all around the county. But I am assured that there are plenty of reserves, which is very encouraging.
Of course it also gives me an opportunity to pay tribute to those wonderful Special Constables and Community Police who give up so much of their precious time to add to all of the work that many of you are doing, and to pay tribute to their long-suffering families, who somehow understand why they have to rush off and do these things a lot of the time.
So, it does give me an opportunity for me just to pay tribute to the hard work, commitment and professionalism that you all display. And, talking of professionalism, many of you may not be aware that we have amongst us an officer who met his wife (Claire) at a post-mortem, and may be regarded as the real Inspector Morse! This officer worked as a Detective Chief Inspector in Oxford and I have it on good authority that he has every Colin Dexter book – inscribed to “the Real Inspector Morse!”
Now, many of you probably will be aware that Norfolk Constabulary was one of the first County Police Forces, established in 1839 – a time when, if the records are correct, police were held in low esteem and the subject of much suspicion by the public. Contemporary reports show the public hated the ‘Peelers’; many were poor quality, drunks and bullies. The first policeman apparently was given the number 1 was sacked after only four hours - he was apparently found to be totally inebriated!
But today, ladies and gentleman, we are very fortunate in Norfolk with the high standard of police officer that we are blessed with. Policing is, above all, a craft. An activity which in the main may be said to be developed for the community, by the community and delivered in the community.
The Principles of Policing are, of course, timeless. In 1829, Sir Richard Mayne decreed that “while prompt to prevent crime and arrest criminals, the officer must look on himself as the servant and guardian of the general public and treat all law abiding citizens, irrespective of their race, colour, creed or social position, with unfailing patience and courtesy”. Clearly, in Norfolk, the principles are working as I see you have remained the safest county for 2011 with crime rates falling, as revealed in Home Office figures. This really is a great tribute to the dedication and courage of all of you here today in delivering a high quality of service in your most challenging of roles and of course at a most difficult time.
Now, I know that during your long service, so much has changed. In terms of technology, legislation, accountability and probably paperwork, I suspect you would agree that Policing now is very different to the 1980s, when of course most of you joined. I am only too aware that these are challenging times, with the Constabulary needing to meet severe budget reductions, the introduction of innovative schemes sharing support services with Suffolk Police and ongoing personal concerns around future personal pension arrangements. But somehow you overcome all of these challenges and provide the public with the remarkable service that you do. So often I think that is taken for granted and all I can assure you is that I certainly don’t take it for granted.
And the other thing I don’t take for granted is the extraordinary work carried out by the Police Family Liaison Officers. And again I just wanted to pay a special tribute to them. I have met quite a large number of the Family Liaison Officers through Police Forces all over the United Kingdom, after one incident or another, whether its terrorism-related or a disaster of some kind. I cannot tell you how impressed I have been by the quality of these Family Liaison Officers, the extraordinary dedication and devotion that they display. The wonderful thing for me is to hear from the families themselves, who have been looked after by these Liaison Officers just how special they feel the Liaison Officers are. In fact the last occasion I met some was down in South Wales a couple of weeks ago. The Liaison Officers have been helping with the mining disaster in the South Wales valleys, so I went down to visit, and the families of the victims were unbelievably fulsome in their praise. So again it is remarkable what you all do, so often unseen and unheard and I just wanted to take this opportunity to salute that aspect of policing, sometimes forgotten.
I wondered also if I could take this opportunity to thank the very loyal partners, family, colleagues and all of the friends of the recipients here today who I know have shown magnificent dedication and support for all of you throughout your Service and without whom, none of this would be possible. It is they after all who have put up with the family dramas, interrupted nights, quick change-overs and special occasions missed due to operational commitments. So, I hope today at least is an opportunity for the families to be here with their loved ones in order to witness this occasion in which we can at least do something to recognize their extraordinary service.
And finally my extra thanks on behalf of my family for the role so many of you perform here. One of you was telling me that he is usually standing outside this window here, disguised as a laurel bush, waiting to pounce! Many of you know Sandringham well, but I promise you what you do here is deeply appreciated, and so this occasion again provides a special opportunity just to thank you all very much indeed.