290. That’s how many Scottish police officers have died in the line of duty since the creation of modern policing in this country.
At the Scottish Police College at Tulliallan, there lies three granite stones bearing the names of every officer who has lost their lives while serving.
The memorial sits within beautifully landscaped gardens and is a tranquil, poignant haven within a busy institution that is training the officers of the future while gently reminding the new recruits their chosen profession is a dangerous one.
This week, all 290 officers were remembered in a moving ceremony honouring their sacrifice and it’s worth bearing in mind that recent figures by Police Scotland show some 6942 recorded assaults on officers and staff, 413 more than the year before and an increase of 6.3 per cent year on year.
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Policing is not an “easy job” by any stretch of the imagination and almost all of us will remember the horrific incident in Glasgow last year when Constable David Whyte was stabbed by crazed knifeman Badreddin Abadlla Adam, 28, from Sudan.
Adam was shot dead by police but before this, Constable Whyte was one of the first officers on the scene who rushed, without thinking of his own safety, to help other victims.
Thankfully, Constable Whyte went on to make a full recovery but a brief look at Scotland’s policing history tells us some of his colleagues were not so lucky.
The first police officer to die while on duty was Dugald Campbell in Edinburgh 1812. Dugald was attacked by a mob as he intervened to stop a robbery during Hogmanay riots.
Village bobby George Taylor was ambushed by insane killers Robert Mone and Thomas McCulloch as they made their deadly bid for freedom from the state hospital Carstairs in 1976.
Their murderous rampage would leave three dead and the nation in a state of shock.
Mone continues to be incarcerated but McCulloch was released in 2013 and lives in Dundee.
A new book, Fatal Duty: Scotland’s Cop Killers, Killer Cops & More 1812-1952, aims to shine a light on a period of time considered the most perilous for Scotland’s bastions of law and order.
Constables patrolled alone with only a wooden baton for protection and a whistle to attract assistance.
Author Gary Knight sets out to highlight the brutal murders of cops and their killers.
And while the most brutal of deaths occurred in a time before patrol cars, drones, radios and armed response units, modern policing is no less risk free.
The Scottish Police Memorial Trust was co-founded by Christine Fulton, whose husband Lewis was stabbed to death while on duty in Glasgow’s Gorbals in 1994.
PC Fulton was responding to an emergency call when he was fatally attacked.
At the time, his son was only seven months old.
With the numbers of attacks on police officers rising year-on-year, it would be wrong to assume that assaulting a police officer is “normal” behaviour. It should not be seen as “par for the course” or “comes with the job”.
Officers are human beings the same as me and you.
What separates them is the tough job they do day in, day out and it’s cliched but true – while most of us run from danger, they run towards it.
I’ve come across many cops in my job and most of them are brave, dedicated public servants who serve proudly to defend their citizens.
Like all walks of life, not all of them are perfect.
Violence towards them should never been seen as acceptable.
I’ll leave it with the words inscribed on the memorial plaque and tip my hat to those who have fallen in the line of duty.
“We owe them a debt we can never repay, but we can ensure that they are never forgotten.”
Let the police do their jobs
When the G8 summit was held in Scotland in 2005, I was sent to cover the violent protests erupting over Edinburgh.
Protesters wanted action to tackle climate change and poverty in Africa.
But their methods turned violent and I found myself caught up in a dicey situation when a group of masked protesters circled me
and it was clear their intention was to harm me.
From out of nowhere, a lone officer appeared at my back and pushed me behind him while waving his “asp” baton at the assembled crowd.
He guided me away from trouble and with barely a chance for me to say a breathless “thanks” he was diving back into the thick of the melee.
It was one of my first experiences of “needing” a police officer – here was a stranger who dived in to help someone without a second thought.
We should all be a bit more mindful of their roles when we’re feeling offended at them doing their jobs.