Like No Other

On Sunday 4th October 2015, PC Dave Phillips booked on for his final shift.

Back at home earlier on, he had said goodbye to his wife and two young daughters as he headed off into the night.

Before dawn the following morning, he was killed in the line of duty – mown down by the driver of a stolen vehicle.

On Sunday 11th October 2015, Garda Anthony Golden booked on for his final shift.

Back at home earlier on, he had said goodbye to his wife and three young children as he headed off into the unknown.

A handful of hours later, he was killed in the line of duty – gunned down at the scene of a domestic disturbance.

Officers down….

Twice in the space of seven days.

How can you even begin to comprehend, much less explain,

– the deathly knock on the door of a family home
– the whispered words to an unsuspecting wife
– the unfolding agony of unimagined grief
– the innocent faces of little lives changed forever
– the shattering effects on helpless colleagues
– the waking realisation of each subsequent morning
– the rolling waves of sadness that continue long after the world’s attention has moved on.

How can you even begin to describe the depth of their sacrifice.

I never had the privilege of meeting Dave Phillips or Anthony Golden. But I will always count it a privilege to have been their fellow officer.

There really is no other job that comes remotely close to policing.

There’s no other job – in this country at least – that comes close in terms of the everyday level of threat faced by frontline staff. Every single day, there are more than 60 assaults on police officers in England & Wales – somewhere in the region of 23,000 attacks every year. And each one of them remains an explicit terrorist target.

There’s no other job that comes close in terms of the everyday trauma that frontline staff are exposed to. Murder scenes and cot deaths; fatal accidents and terrorist executions; child abuse and domestic violence; decaying corpses and house fires. And so it goes on – police officers venturing where most wouldn’t and doing what most couldn’t.

There’s no other job that comes close in terms of the context in which police officers operate: at the margins of society; in the hurting places; in the face of confrontation and hostility and conflict; in the spaces between life and death; in defence of those who don’t want us, but still need us; in amongst the gangs and the troubled homes; in the streets where extreme poverty is a neighbour to extraordinary wealth. And something like 80% of calls to the police are about something other than crime.

There’s no other job that comes close in terms of the complexity that police officers are faced with: neighbourhoods with 200 mother tongue languages; demographic movement and change on an extraordinary scale – in a shrinking world, where global events have immediate local impacts; technological change at a headlong pace – and the endlessly shifting patterns of crime that follow. All in an age of austerity – with savings required on a scale without precedent.

There’s no other job that comes close in terms of the scrutiny that police officers are subject to: from politicians, from the media, from the IPCC, from the public we come into contact with – and from anyone with an opinion. It is absolutely right that we should be accountable – and absolutely right that we should be held to a higher standard. But the relentless hostility and uninformed agendas that characterise so much of the public conversation about policing can be breathtaking.

None of us is asking for sympathy. Just for some understanding.

Because we are all you have.

And we will not step back.

We will not shy away.

We will act to protect the most vulnerable.

We will pursue the most dangerous.

We will place ourselves in harm’s way.

We will do our duty.

And some of us, like PC Dave Phillips and Garda Anthony Golden, will pay the greatest price of all.

They are giants on whose shoulders we stand.

Rest peacefully mighty men.


10 thoughts on “Like No Other

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  1. Like the the majority law abiding citizens of the U.K. I am sickened, appalled and lost for words of how evil man can be.
    These courageous officers, it doesn’t matter what Constabulary or where they come from are denied lives. Families are now bereaved, saddened and walking about in ‘automatic’ mode, not even comprehending that a certain person will no longer be getting into bed after shift. No longer sitting at the table, a void on their their side of bed, and their familiar banter, humour at home or their changing room at their station has now gone forever except in memories.

    Why? Because the corrupt laws of the U.K. (which are all well outdated). At home whether they come from corrupt backgrounds or good doing ‘it’ and getting away with it has for too long now been allowed my Home Secretary after Home Secretary. The present Minister of education along with her predecessors allowed teachers and pupils dress codes to go out of the window. Likewise parents allowed discipline to simply go into the recycling bin.

    Being caught by Police Officers the ‘accused’ appear in court, along with the evidence and are told ‘be a good boy Tommy and don’t let it happen again. No HMG chooses the option of do not send Bloggs and Co to Prison because going there will only get them more involved in crime. We the coherent ones would do something quite different.

    Mrs May and Mr Gove are not the ones tonight without a full family around their tables tonight. No, but these poor officers wives families and loved ones do.

    My thoughts and prayers are for these poor Officers holy souls and all of their nearest and dearest.

    Good night and God bless you all.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. John, many thanks for your reflections, straight from the heart and mind together. Thanks too for including an Irish story in your reflections. Police face the same dynamics and pressures everywhere… Your thoughts enthuse me for my chaplaincy to a police station here in Birmingham.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have read your poignant words and have tears running down my face. As the Mum of a serving Police Officer I know only too well the difficulties our Police Officers face on a daily/nightly basis. My Sons friend also a Police Officer worked PC Phillips area, although she didnt know him personally she knew of him through shift changes. I can say every Officer in Merseyside Police felt the loss of a Colleague and to some a friend but nothing can come close to the loss felt by Officer Phillips wife Jen his two children his Family his Friends and Colleagues who worked with him. His death as with any fallen Officer was needless, a total lack of regard by the person/s who commit these heinous crimes. Not forgetting the Garda who was also killed in the line of duty, my Heart, Thoughts and Prayers go out to everyone touched by this heartbreakingly sad loss of life. May both Officers Rest in Peace, they will never be forgotten

    Liked by 2 people

  4. How eloquently put. I used to work for John; like PC Phillips and Garda Golden, he too is a giant among men. Ch. Supt. John Sutherland is the last of a dying breed of true “leaders” in the UK Police Service. His words are always, wise, profound and prophetic.

    John actually gets why it is so essential to really look after and care about the people we lead: a) because they know immediately when we are faking it and b) it is they, the people who get the job done.

    In management speak: be the type of leader that gets the balance of transformational (people orientated) and transactional (task orientated) leadership right and you will have an informidable workforce that will achieve incredible things.

    John Sutherland is THAT leader – if only there were more like him. I am fortunate that I work for some of the few like him that are left.

    Rest in peace Dave and Anthony, for we have the Watch now.


    Liked by 1 person

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