Monday, June 27, 2005

RGP out in full force!

RGP 175th Anniversary Parade * By Alice Mascarenhas

160 serving and retired policemen and women paraded onto Grand Casemates Square on Saturday morning to the applause of the crowds on the 175th anniversary of the Royal Gibraltar Police (RGP).

This was the culmination of a series of events commemorating this very special anniversary when on 25 June 1830, the Gibraltar Civil Police Force, was formally constituted and tasked with policing the colony of Gibraltar.

Since then the RGP has claimed to being the second oldest British Police Force in the Commonwealth, second only to the Metropolitan Police.

On this bright, sun-filled morning, these men and women, proudly marched on from Landport Tunnel lead by the Band of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment.

Security was tight, as both members of the RGP and Royal Gibraltar Regiment had been checking out Main Street and the parade ground. Just before 11am Commander of No.1 Guard Superintendent Louis Wink responsible for the HQ Division of the Force marched his Guard onto the parade ground. Behind the Commander of No.2 Guard Superintendent Richard Bossano responsible for the Operations Division of the Force and his Guard.

More used to looking on when parades of this nature are taking place, their smartness and discipline, was evident throughout.

As the two divisions and the Escort to The Standard, brought onto the parade ground by Police Constable Frank Rawlinson, took their positions, the retired members of the force proudly joined them as the Governor, Chief Minister, The Mayor, Leader of the Opposition, and local and military dignitaries looked on.

There were also police representatives from HMIC and UK police, the Guardia Civil and Policia Nacional from Spain.

Already on the parade ground were vehicles and officers representing the various departments including the Armed Response Unit and Marine Section. Then Governor Sir Francis Richards escorted by Parade Commander Deputy Commissioner Jimmy McKay, Commissioner Joe Ullger, and his police ADC Detective Inspector Richard Ullger, inspected all three divisions taking a few moments to talk to some of the officers. Former Commissioner Pepe Morello, Gibraltar’s first local Commissioner, led on the retired officers.

“It is an honour to be here,” he told the Chronicle just before the start of the parade recalling how this event marked his third major police celebration. “I was already a young police officer when the Force celebrated its 125th, and then for the 150th I was already in command of the Force,” he recalled. Proud of being on parade and how the Force has grown over the years he further recalled, “when I started we only had one van and one patrol car. Today they have dozens of cars, launches, etc. During my time there was a lot of industrial unrest and we spent much of the time in industrial disputes, and did not have the manpower we required. But looking back and seeing the Force today, if I were young, I would join again!”

As the two divisions then paraded up Main Street to the Piazza, where the Mayor Clive Beltran took the salute, Commissioner Joe Ullger spoke of how proud it made him to be at the head of the Force which he believes is going from strength to strength. “I am proud not just for myself, but for the police and for the community as a whole,” he commented. “This has truly been a memorable occasion and I am very proud of it. Today we have again demonstrated we have the professionalism to accept and respond to the challenges ahead,” he emphasised.

A Thanksgiving Mass at the Cathedral of St Mary the Crowned officiated by Bishop Charles Caruana followed the parade. Also present at the service was The Dean of Gibraltar Alan Woods. In his Homily Bishop Caruana spoke of how the role of the police has become more complicated having to adapt to the changes of a modern society. “The police continue to perform a service which is immensely essential and noble, in spite of the many and very stressful conditions, exposure to different violent and traumatic situations. Above all, police officers are human beings trying to perform a duty which is at times not acknowledged and even criticised, yet necessary and essential,” he reiterated. “Society thanks you – the many children who walk so freely and securely down our streets, the elderly, the tourists, for all the good you do,” he added.

At the end of the Service, Commissioner Joe Ullger, addressed all the dignitaries and officers present, and paid tribute to the fellowship, which exists within the Force with a few special words of recognition to the senior, retired members of the Force. “The professionalism of the Royal Gibraltar Police is a legacy you have left us,” he stressed.

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