The “extraordinary commitment” of police officers is “so often taken for granted,” the Prince of Wales said yesterday, as he paid tribute to Sgt Matt Ratana.
Prince Charles said the 54-year-old’s death was the “latest heartbreaking evidence” of the daily risks officers face.
Leading tributes to fallen officers on National Police Memorial Day (NPMD), he said such deaths were “losses we can never replace, sacrifices we can never repay”.
The annual service, held virtually due to the pandemic, came just two days after Sgt Ratana, a father-of-one, was killed in the line of duty at Croydon Custody Centre.
Sgt Ratana is the eighth police officer to be shot dead in the UK in the last 20 years and the first to be killed inside a police station.
The NPMD service, led by the National Police Chaplain, the Rev Canon David Wilbraham, featured pre-recorded messages from families who have lost loved ones.
One of the remembrance candles was lit by Lissie Harper, wife of Pc Andrew Harper, 28, of Thames Valley Police, who died last August, while a rendition of I Vow To Thee My Country by the British Police Symphony Orchestra was performed by more than 60 musicians who recorded contributions from their homes across the UK.
In a video message, the Prince said: “The dreadful incident in Croydon on Friday is the latest heartbreaking evidence of the risks faced by our officers daily.
“I would like to send my deepest sympathy to the families of each of these officers who have given their lives.
“These are losses we can never replace, sacrifices we can never repay, but of which, as a society, we can only strive to be worthy.”
The Prince noted how the nation had faced the “unseen, but deadly threat” of coronavirus in recent months amid ever-changing circumstances.
He added: “However, throughout all the uncertainty, we have learned as never before to value those things of which we can always be certain – such as the steadfast dedication to duty of our police forces throughout the United Kingdom.
“Our officers have met this invisible threat with visible courage and commitment, providing the calm reassurance that has been so essential to our communities day and night.
"That such extraordinary commitment should so often be taken for granted is a measure of how we have come to expect nothing less than the highest standards from our officers, and shows why our police forces have earned the admiration of the world.
“We owe our police service and its remarkable officers the most profound debt of gratitude for their continued, selfless commitment and dedication to the protection of our communities.”