'The ultimate sacrifice': Police Federation boss on PC Andrew Harper's legacy

John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales
·3-min read

I will never forget receiving that phone call in the early hours informing me about PC Andrew Harper.

When you hear such devastating news about a colleague, your blood runs cold. My thoughts went straight away to Andrew's family. You know their lives will be changed forever.

When the news broke, the outpouring of grief and support was massive. Both from the policing family and the wider public.

In those desperate times it's so reassuring to know so many people care - it can't take the pain away for the family, friends and colleagues of those we lose - but it helps.

What makes policing such a fantastic job is no two days are ever the same. But that also makes it unpredictable and often dangerous.

You can't predict how some people we deal with will act, but that doesn't stop police officers from running towards danger to help those who need our support.

For some colleagues, they make the ultimate sacrifice. Officers like PC Andrew Harper never got to go home after their shift, they gave everything to protect their communities.

People join the police knowing there are risks. Figures show that 85 officers are assaulted every day - that's 30,000 a year. And those are just the ones we know about.

I've been badly assaulted in the past. I've been knocked unconscious, hospitalised, driven at and I've had knives pulled on me. At the time you go into autopilot and adrenalin gets you through. It's only later when you're at home with your family that you think about what could have happened.

Officers across the country will have had this feeling. I've spoken to so many colleagues who have been seriously injured, some thought they were about to die.

Despite all of this, typically they can't wait to get back to the job. That may sound strange but it's typical of police officers.

Sadly, the level of the violence we face is increasing. That's why the Police Federation continues to push for officers to have the best equipment to protect themselves and others, better training, double crewing and to receive the support they need if they are injured.

That's where the police covenant - protection we're campaigning for - might give that wraparound support my colleagues so desperately need.

It's not just the physical injuries - the amount of hidden psychological trauma within policing is a real concern. We are losing too many officers because they are broken; either physically or mentally.

Continuous exposure to the very worst that society can throw at you takes its toll; we're not robots, we're human beings, and unless you can talk that through and offload those feelings it causes issues.

Officers these days are so relentlessly busy, they don't have time to decompress and talk through their concerns with colleagues. Finding time to talk has become harder - that must change.

Society is dangerous and police officers are that thin blue line between anarchy and normality. We often face the brunt of the anger and frustration on behalf of the public.

And every day, acts of bravery and selflessness happen. This is the lesson and the legacy of PC Andrew Harper, whose memory will never be forgotten.