Thank you, Michael, for that introduction, and on behalf of everybody here and PC Toms’s family, a very big thank you for what you have done setting up this great charity and for all the work that you have put in.
We’re here today because one day, 18 months ago, PC Gary Toms showed true bravery and made the ultimate sacrifice. I know there are many of his colleagues here from the Firearms Unit who deal with dangerous situations day in and day out, but for the rest of us I think it is really important to properly reflect on what he did: pursuing dangerous criminals at speed, not knowing how they were armed, not knowing what might happen. Doing a job like that takes unbelievable guts. It takes dedication and it takes real courage. Gary Toms had those qualities in abundance and the tributes about him speak volumes: good humoured, hard working, always the professional, dedicated to his job, much loved by his family and much missed by his workmates. That is why we’re here today and that is why we have this lasting memorial to his service and to his sacrifice. And it’s in remembering the courage of one police officer that we can recognise today the bravery of all officers.
I want to pay tribute again to the work that Michael Winner and the Police Memorial Trust have done for more than 26 years, because memorials like this don’t just mark those tragic moments when police officers are killed in the line of duty. They’re also a reminder to us, as we walk past them and look at them, a reminder of what the police do day in, day out.
When I’m driven out of Downing Street and we leave by the back entrance, we often pass the National Police Memorial on the corner of Horseguards and the Mall. It is a really beautiful monument, the glass tower lit with that blue light representing the blue light that shone outside police stations showing that officers inside were always on duty. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the police are on duty. The thin blue line is never broken.
It is easy to take peace and civilisation for granted, but as it’s been said, evil thrives when good men do nothing, and in this country evil is largely kept at bay because good men and women put on their uniform each morning, kiss their children and their husband or their wife or their partner goodbye and go out to keep the peace, not knowing what each day might hold. And the police are everywhere where the rest of us don’t want to be: in the den of the criminal gang, in the high-speed car chase, at the scene of a fight, at the scene of a murder.
Earlier this year, I had the great privilege of going to the Police Bravery Awards and there are some incredible stories that you hear, but what really inspired me was the way in which the stories were told - ‘I just grabbed the knife’, ‘I just knocked the gun out of his hand’, ‘I just pulled the woman from the burning car’. The matter-of-fact quiet heroism is why I believe that this country has the finest police service in the world.
So I hope that from this day on anyone who walks down here and passes this memorial will be prompted to pause, to be thankful for what the police do for us, to be mindful of all that we owe them, and to reflect on the courage of PC Gary Toms and all he did, all he represented, and all he means to everyone here today.