Today's Minster Police
Today’s Minster Police continue to fulfil their policing role with the same dedication and determination of their predecessors. Currently the Minster employs 8 constables lead by a head constable, who in turn is managed by the Security Manager. All officers have completed the Level 3 Certificate in Cathedral Constable Attestation. In 2001 their first female officer was appointed.
Officers wear a uniform similar to their Home Office colleagues, a white shirt, black tie, black trousers and a blue NATO-style sweater with a York Minster Police patch worn on the left side of the chest. Officers, when outside, wear a black peaked cap with the familiar blue and white diced band worn by cathedral constables nationally. They wear numerals on their epaulettes together with the Minster's crest of crossed keys surmounted by a crown. The head constable is distinguished by his wearing of a white shirt, and epaulette insignia, similar to that worn by a police inspector.
The main purpose of the Minster Police is to provide security and ensure that the dignity of the Minster is upheld. In addition to patrolling the Minster and its environs, officers monitor CCTV. They are trained in first aid and monitor the health and safety of staff and visitors.
Due to the importance of the Minster, it is regularly visited by dignitaries including senior church officials, government ministers and royalty. The Minster Police regularly liaise with the local constabulary to ensure security during important visits, ceremonies and church services.
Officers do not routinely carry handcuffs and truncheons, as incidents of public order are rare. They go about their work quietly and with great patience. It is important, no matter the issue, that the reverence and spiritual serenity of the Minster is not unduly disturbed.
Having said this, there are times when this is interrupted and the bravery and professionalism of Minster Police officers come to the fore. In October 1989, a man jumped to his death from the south west tower. At the inquest into the death of the individual, Her Majesty’s Coroner for the York District commended three police officers, including a Minster Police officer, for their bravery. He recorded,
‘All three of the Police Officers who climbed the south west tower of the Minster, and in particular, Sergeant Marchant (North Yorkshire Police) and PC McEwan (York Minster Police) displayed great courage and exposed themselves to considerable danger. Even for someone who has a good head for heights this would have been a frightening and alarming experience’.
Of course, such major incidents are exceptionally rare. For the most part, the Minster Police go about their work responding to more routine matters; regularly dealing with queries from visitors.
Officers work out of their office, marked by two old-fashioned truncheons, located in the choir aisle. Working 24/7, 365 days of the year, Minster Police officers are always on hand to assist. Present during several of the great fires, their quick action at raising the alarm or assisting the emergency services, has helped to safeguard this great cathedral.
National Police Memorial Day 2012 by John Key
Approaching the Minster from the West end of the building on Sunday 30 September, I could see a sea of police uniforms, medals glinting in the sunlight - more police officers than I have seen at the cathedral in many a year. I have to say that it was a real privilege to attend such a service. With my own long service medal proudly displayed on my chest and white ticket in my hand, I joined the long line of both serving and retired police officers and their families, all making their way into York Minster for a service of remembrance for officers killed in the line of duty, 'The National Police Memorial Day Service'.
The Reverend Canon David Wilbraham national police chaplain, gave the bidding, and the Lord's Prayer was said by all. Following that the Minster choir sang and then Derek Barnett, Chief Superintendant and President of the Police Superintendants’ Association, gave the first reading, Micah 6.6-8. After the Magnificat sung by the Minster choir, the second reading was given by Ian Learmonth Q.P.M, Chief Constable of Kent Police, who read from Mathew 5.1-16.
The act of remembrance was a well put together and moving event at which relatives of some of the fallen constables of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales read out prayers and the congregation replied by saying 'We will remember them'. The names of all the officers killed in the last year were read out and everyone replied 'So long as we live, they too shall live, for they too are now a part of us as we remember them. Rest eternal grant unto them and let light perpetual shine upon them.
Silence then descended upon the whole of the Nave as blue poppies floated gently down from the Triforium, landing on heads and shoulders as the police band played 'Abide with me', after which a minute's silence was observed, then Reveille was sounded.
One of the most moving parts of the service was a reading by little Emma Barker, daughter of (deceased) constable Bill Barker, formally of Cumbria Constabulary and posthumously awarded the Q.C.B. This little girl did very well and touched many hearts that afternoon.
After the hymn 'Dear Lord and Father of mankind', the act of dedication was read by the acting Chief Constable of North Yorkshire, Mr Tim Madgwick, after which the blessing was given by the Archbishop and we all stood for the national anthem.
Tea and biscuits were served in the North and South Transepts and very welcome they were too. I left the service with a feeling of hope, yet also could not help wondering how many more names would be added to the list before the next service.