2017 saw scenes that tested policing. Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge, Finsbury park – and they were just the major incidents. That doesn’t account for 365 ‘business-as-usual’ days of policing in communities across the UK.
The 300,000 officers, staff, and volunteers that make up the police force across England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland have had to come to terms with the loss of colleagues in the line of duty, colleagues who took their own life, and with the traumatic realities of doing their duty, oftentimes long after they ran towards danger to protect the public.
22nd May 2017 is a date no police colleague in Manchester will ever forget. A day that some still re-live every night.
Leon joined Greater Manchester Police in 2007 as a police officer – protecting communities, helping those in need, and catching criminals. It isn’t a job to Leon, it’s a calling. He’s felt immense joy and pride after bringing victims comfort that their attacker, burglar, thief or abuser are behind bars. He’s got a group of people he considers more than merely colleagues – they are friends for life. And he has a job he truly loves.
But there’s another side. A dark and consuming side to his job.
The first suicide. The first fatal collision. The first sexual assault. The first abused child. The first vulnerable victim. The first grieving parent. The list goes on, and it takes it’s toll. Physically and psychologically. And then came the Manchester terror attack.
Leon was one of the first on-scene at the MEN arena, running against a tide of people fleeing for safety as he headed towards the carnage.
For weeks, he tried to carry on as normal, but the psychological trauma became a blanket that tried smother him, consume him, and drag him into the darkness. His partner, Sarah, was by his side, living through every day with him – a never-ending source of support, compassion, and love. But Leon recognised he needed help.
In 2018, Police Care UK funded specialist treatment for Leon to be able to recover and rebuild his life. In his own words, leon said, “I spent several weeks as an inpatient where I received excellent treatment and care. After being discharged I was provided with fantastic after care”.
A brighter future was possible, and a few months later, he was able to return to the job he loves. In his own words, leon says, “Without the support from Police Care UK I simply would not have received the quality of treatment and care that I did, it has saved my life.”
Leon and Sarah were busy rebuilding their lives together and decided they wanted to say thank you to Police Care UK for being there when they needed help. They decided to raise money by running in the city they love, the city that has so many memories (good and bad) for Leon, and complete the Great Manchester Run in 2019. Leon says, “We’re running for the thousands of brave men and women up and down the country suffering physical and emotional injuries on a daily basis. We want Police Care UK to help support more officers and their families with the help and care they so desperately need during the darkest times.”
And so, I will be there, in Manchester on the 19th May 2019, cheering on Leon and Sarah as they run for colleagues in need – my small way of saying thank you to them for doing something amazing and unexpected.
If you’d like to find out more about Leon’s story, or to make a donation, you can visit his justgiving page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/leonandsarahrunforrecovery