Police Remembrance Day

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September 29 is Police Remembrance Day.

Today is National Police Remembrance Day – a day to remember police officers who have died whilst on duty.

It is a day of conflicting emotions for me. Pride – to be part of the organisation whose charter is to put the welfare of others above themselves. A sense of belonging – we are a team, in this together. Sadness – families robbed of a loved one, often so needlessly. Trepidation – whose turn will it be next? Someone I know? Me?

Today in particular, I remember Detective Senior Constable Damian Leeding. His tragic death in 2011 struck a note with me. Maybe because he too was the father of two young children. He was on duty, responding to a triple 0 call for help – an armed hold-up at a tavern. As he ran towards the tavern, he was shot in the face by one of the robbers. This murderer was a career criminal. He had committed armed hold-ups before, using the same shotgun that killed DSC Leeding.

So what was worth enough to take a man’s life? About $16,000. That was the amount of money recovered in nearby bushland, the proceeds of the armed robbery. Presumably to be shared amongst the three persons involved in the robbery. So a bit more than $5000 each. That is the price a criminal put on a police officer’s life. A paltry piddling sum. It might have paid for some rent, some groceries, some booze, some drugs. Not necessarily in that order. Definitely not a life-changing amount of money. But that day, this murderer changed the lives of so many forever. DSC Leeding left behind a wife and two children, both of whom were so young they may have no direct memories of their father. He was just 35 years old.

Police are often maligned. I myself often go out of my way in my private life not to reveal what I do for a living. I will often describe my occupation as ‘public servant’ and try not to elaborate on that. You never know what sort of reaction you will get from people. That said, I think most people have respect for police, or at least the job police do. Most people can look past the undeserved traffic ticket or a rude individual hiding behind the badge and see the bigger picture. Police play an important role in society, working for the greater good, far beyond shutting down noisy parties or giving tickets to jaywalkers.

When the proverbial hits the fan and you are caught in a genuine emergency, nothing will sound quite as sweet as the police sirens drawing closer.

When your back is to the wall and a police officer comes rushing to your defence, blue will suddenly become your favourite colour.

When there is a disaster and everyone is trying to flee and escape, it is police, and usually ambos and firies too, who head towards the trouble.

It takes a certain type of person to do that. Even those officers who have not been called to a serious job are still prepared to do it. They have pledged to take on every challenge. And each day we turn up to work, we make that same commitment to any job the shift might bring – to serve, to protect, to help.

And that’s why Police Remembrance Day is important.

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10 thoughts on “Police Remembrance Day

  1. What happened to DSC Leeding was outrageous and such a waste. I hate reading or hearing about police losing their lives in this way. Any derogatory reference to police gets my blood boiling- without police there would be anarchy and our force can be held up as a shining example to the world- it’s not perfect but when you compare to what passes for police in some other countries, our police are pretty bloody amazing.

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  2. This is a great post about police remembrance day. I think people forget that there is a person behind the badge, that just like any other occupation there are ones who are great at their job, and there are ones who just turn up. It must be pretty daunting to get that call and have to run into a job, unsure exactly what is going to be ahead.

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing this today. It certainly does take a certain person to run toward trouble and be willing to risk their lives. You have summarised the Leeding story so well. You’re an excellent writer as well as a cop 🙂 Visiting via #teamIBOT

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  4. Yes, I was reading a thread on a large parenting forum about the recent incident where a young muslim man was shot dead for stabbing two police officers. It made me utterly furious, because so many people were so quick to criticise the policeman for using lethal force in that situation. They have no idea what police have to face every day – and nor do I – but I would never criticise an officer for trying to defend themselves or a colleague as necessary.

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    • Police are trained to respond to a knife with their guns, due to a knife having the potential to kill you. It won’t necessarily kill you though – I once had a colleague scream “she’s got a knife”, when it was a teenage girl with a butter knife. I ignored my training that time. But it is hard when you are reacting on gut instinct in the heat of the moment. And everyone wants to go home to their families at the end of the shift. Thanks for your comments.

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