Police Remembrance Day was observed with a memorial ceremony at Yass Police Station. Inspector David Cowell began by acknowledging and paying respect to the traditional owners of Australia and thanked friends, colleagues, family and special guests attending, with special mention to former officers and their families. He welcomed Mayor Allan McGrath and Yass Valley Councillors, Yass High School students, as well as representatives from other emergency services organisations.

“Each year, the 29th of September holds a special significance for police throughout Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. It’s a day for police to pause and honour officers whose lives have been cut short while performing their duty as a police officer. This important day is also time to remember police officers who have lost their lives through illness or other circumstances,” said Inspector Cowell. 

He explained that National Police Remembrance Day was first held on the 29th of September 1989, as a result of a joint decision of the 1988 Australasia and South-West Pacific Region Commissioner’s Conference.

National Police Remembrance Day is observed on the main feast day of St Michael, the Archangel Patron Saint of police. 

“St Michael is recognised as an archangel by the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faith,” said Inspector Cowell. 

As the service continued, Former Sergeant Mick Newling gave an address giving insight into his experience as a police officer and the seriousness of mental health in the profession.

In Sergeant Newling’s first year at Yass Police Station, there were 29 fatal crashes and 49 deaths. That order of magnitude continued for some years until the Hume Highway was duplicated.

“The men and women who dealt with those types of horrific incidents did not receive the type of support that is now available. I hope that support is freely offered – and accepted, as I know only too well of the impact that continual exposure to tragedy can have on an individual,” said Sergeant Newling. 

Inspector David Cowell Former Sergeant Mick Newling

“I have seen several of my workmates go through family breakups, mental anguish, reliance on alcohol etc, and sadly, self-harm. Some of my contemporaries were injured and killed while on duty,” he continued.

“But, most of us survived – usually because of the support that we got from our workmates and families.  That type of support is vital to the survival of first responders – particularly Police.”

Sergeant Newling reminded the community that support comes in many forms, from high-end professional intervention, though Police Chaplains and Supervisors, down to mates on the job. He said that the “RUOK” project is the type of first level support that goes a long way to identifying a problem and dealing with it.

“Sometimes, just an opportunity for a quiet chat is a good start, and it can open doors to the higher level of help that is needed. We need to remember not only those who have gone before us, but those who are still serving beside you, and their families.”

“All of you, sworn police, unsworn staff, supervisors, commanders and professionals and the wider community need to remember – remember that even though a colleague may seem to be coping, keeping the lines of communication open is vital. Remember – Remember your families and those of your workmates as well as those who have gone before you.  Remember,” said Sergeant Newling.

Throughout the service were several pieces of poetry and prayer. The police poem ‘I am the Officer,’ read by Senior Constable Dave Lutz,  spoke to both the difficult environment experienced by, and the difficult expectations demanded from Police officers:

“I have been where you fear to be,

I have seen what you fear to see,

I have done what you fear to do –

All these things I’ve done for you.

 

I am the person you lean upon,

The person you can cast your scorn upon,

The person you bring your troubles to –

All these things I’ve been for you.

 

The person you ask to stand apart,

The person you feel should have no heart,

The one you call “The one in Blue,”

But I am a person, just like you.

 

And through the years I’ve come to see,

That I am not what you expect of me;

So, take this badge, take this gun – 

Will you take it … will anyone?

 

And when you watch a person die

Or hear a battered baby cry,

Do you really think that you can be

All these things you ask of me?”

A petition for strength and integrity in police work was then asked of God through prayer, led by Constable Matthieu Murphy.

“God of all people, we know it is from you that we have learned what goodness and justice are. You have given us the task of maintaining law and order in our community.

Strengthen us to meet the many challenges we encounter in our daily work

Give us the courage and resolve to do our daily duties at all times. Give us a respect and love for justice that neither promise nor threat will ever make us depart from it.

May we, by our presence, give protection to those in danger, friendship to all, and be a role model to children and youth. May we have your wisdom and truth when called upon to give advice. 

Guide us, O Lord, in knowing when to enforce and when to relax the letter of the law. Give us skill and insight in triumph over wrong and injustice.

Walk with us on our “beat” so that we might be examples of honesty, goodness and justice which it is our duty to maintain.

May all we do inspire confidence in the NSW Police force and all of its officers. We make this prayer through you, the one true life-giving God.

Amen”

Police Chaplain Judy Heggart also lead the community in saying the Lord’s Prayer. 

To conclude the Police Remembrance Day service, the Police Ode was read by Sergeant Matthew Carroll.

“As the sun surely sets:

dawn will see it arise,

for service, above self, demands its own prize.

You have fought the good fight: life’s race has been run,

and peace, your reward,

for eternity begun.

And we that are left,

shall never forget,

rest in peace friend and colleague, for the sun has now set.

We will remember.

We will remember. Hasten the dawn.”

Southerly Jones