Dyfed Powys Inspector Gareth Earp was honoured at yesterday’s Care of Police Survivors (COPS) Service of Remembrance at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.
Gareth, who died on 29 June in a car accident on his way home from work, was included in the roll of honour for officers to have lost their lives since the COPS service last year.
His widow, Tamsin, and two of their three sons were at the service and were accompanied by Dyfed Powys Police Federation chair Gareth Jones. Deputy Chief Constable Steve Cockwell represented the Force.
“The COPS service is always a poignant event,” says Gareth, “But it was even more moving this year with Gareth’s sad passing just a matter of weeks ago.
“It was an honour to be able to attend the service with Gareth’s family and to honour his memory.
“The service, while recognising the sacrifice of so many officers, also serves as a reminder of the critical importance of the peer support offered through COPS.
“The charity really does offer a lifeline to the families of fallen officers, giving them the opportunity to speak to others who appreciate the impact an officer’s death can have on the people left behind.”
Ahead of the service, those attending welcomed the arrival of the Blue Knights, the world’s largest law enforcement motorcycle club and supporter of COPS from the time of the charity’s launch.
Minutes later, cyclists from the Police Unity Tour (PUT), made up of hundreds of riders from chapters covering forces across England and Wales, made their way into the arboretum to applause from the crowd.
A team of 50 serving and retired officers and staff from across Wales – including 15 from Dyfed Powys, and the DCC - took part in the PUT, setting off on a 200-mile route to the arboretum in Alrewas on Friday morning.
Dyfed Powys Police Federation member Sarah Evans who helped organise this year’s Welsh chapter acknowledged ahead of the ride that it would be particularly poignant coming so soon after losing Gareth.
On Friday morning, the riders observed a moment of silence outside Aberystwyth police station where Gareth served as an inspector for several years.
Each member of the team wore a black armband featuring the Force crest, a thin blue line and Gareth’s collar number – 1079.
The PUT cyclists set off from their home force areas on Friday and headed first to Drayton Manor near Tamworth on Saturday to be greeted by the families of fallen officers.
They then rode together to the arboretum on Sunday morning for the last leg of their journey.
The remembrance service was opened by Christine Fulton, co-founder of COPS and the charity’s life vice-president.
She talked about the dark days that followed the death of her husband of two years in Glasgow in 1994. PC Lewis Fulton was just 28 when he was stabbed to death as he sought to detain a knifeman who had already injured a police sergeant.
But her life changed when retired police officer Jim McNulty encouraged her to attend a COPS service in America.
Thinking it would be an ‘interesting holiday’, she was unprepared for the impact the trip to the States would have on her and recalled that it was the first time she had found herself in a room full of people who understood how she felt which lifted a huge weight off her shoulders.
Realising how valuable that support would have been if she had received it at the start of her grieving process, Christine wrote to all chief constables when she returned to the UK seeking support for the launch of a similar initiative here, but was largely told that it was a ‘dreadful idea’ and that families did not want to remember their loss, but wanted to forget.
Undeterred, Christine forged ahead, telling the service that she expected 34 survivors to attend the first event, but 64 turned up.
Peer support, she explained, was at the heart of the charity, adding that 300 family members were at this year’s service.
The family weekend could be life-changing and life affirming, said Christine.
“It proves you can move forward but you don’t leave your officer behind,” she added, “They are always with you. They are part of you, and always will be.”
Caroline Cox, younger sister of Inspector Mark Estall of Essex Police who died on 5 January 2017, talked about the positive impact COPS had on her life, describing it as ‘an incredible charity’.
She began by thanking all the PUT riders.
“You will never know how much it means to us,” said Caroline on behalf of fallen officers’ families, “To us, it means everything.”
In a similar vein, Katy McMurray, daughter of PC Alan McMurray of Lothian and Borders Police who died on 4 February 2006, when she was just two, talked about how the charity had helped her.
Katy recalled how meeting other children who had lost a police officer parent through COPS had helped her process her emotions and access support when she needed it.
The service also included music from the West Midlands Police Band, songs from vocalist Diane Whylie and an address from Gill Marshall, the COPS national president.
Gill read the roll of honour including the names of the officers who, along with Gareth, had died since the last COPS remembrance service:
PC Daniel Golding of the Metropolitan Police who died on 18 August 2022;
PCSO Daniel Gower of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary who died on 23 November 2022;
PS Steven Creal of Sussex Police who died on 21 December 2022;
PC Richard Kemp of Lancashire Constabulary who died on 27 December 2022;
PC Bruce Lister of Hertfordshire Police who died on 30 January 2023;
PC Neil Pattinson of Northumbria Police who died on 27 February 2023, and
PC Andy Boardman of West Mercia Police who died on 11 April 2023.
Wreaths were laid on behalf of the Office of the Lieutenancy, the High Sheriff’s Office, the Home Office, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Fire & Rescue Services, the National Police Chiefs Council, Blue Light, the Police Unity Tour, the National Memorial Arboretum and COPS.
As Sir Peter Fahy, chair of the COPS trustees, prepared to close the service, the National Police Air Service helicopter flew over and performed a ‘bow’ to the congregation.
Families and other guests then made their way to The Beat – the avenue of trees dedicated to each force and to some individual officers – to lay red roses and wreaths.