The shooting of a police sergeant in a south London custody centre is the “latest heartbreaking evidence” of the daily risks officers face, the Prince of Wales has said.
Leading tributes to fallen officers on National Police Memorial Day (NPMD), Charles said such deaths are “losses we can never replace, sacrifices we can never repay”.
The annual service, held virtually this year due to the pandemic, comes just days after the killing of Metropolitan Police Sergeant Matt Ratana who was shot by a handcuffed suspect.
Addressing the memorial in a video message, Charles 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.”
Investigations into Sgt Ratana’s death are ongoing and tributes have poured in from friends and colleagues.
His local rugby club in East Grinstead gathered to remember him on Sunday morning, pausing in silence to reflect on the life of someone described by club bosses as an “inspiring and much-loved figure”.
He is the eighth police officer in the UK to be shot dead in the last 20 years.
Ex-policing minister Mike Penning said poor attitudes towards officers started with politicians, who he accused of “hampering and undermining normal police officers”.
“This lack of respect comes from the top, for me. It filters down from senior management and our politicians,” he wrote in The Sun.
“Simply, they are not backing officers.”
Sunday’s service, led by the National Police Chaplain, the Rev Canon David Wilbraham, also featured pre-recorded messages from families who have lost loved ones.
The messages were filmed under lockdown restrictions, and candles will be lit in remembrance of the deceased officers in each of the UK nations.
Lissie Harper, wife of Pc Andrew Harper of Thames Valley Police, who died in August 2019 aged 28, will light the candle for England.
Rebecca Davies, daughter of Pc Terry Davies of Gwent Police, who died in August 1990 aged 34, will light the candle for Wales.
Louie Johnston, son of Reserve Constable David Johnston of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, who died in June 1997 aged 30, will light the candle for Northern Ireland.
Chief Constable Iain Livingstone will light a candle in Scotland.
A rendition of I Vow To Thee My Country by The British Police Symphony Orchestra has been put together after more than 60 musicians recorded contributions from their homes across the UK.
Charles said officers have met the “invisible threat” of coronavirus with “visible courage and commitment” and provided a “calm reassurance that has been so essential to our communities day and night”.
Speaking directly to the bereaved and serving officers, he said: “I can only say to all the families, friends and colleagues of fallen officers – and to every serving officer throughout the United Kingdom – that you and your loved ones will always have a very special place in the heart of our nation.”
Earlier Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Home Secretary Priti Patel laid wreaths at the National Police Memorial in central London as part of the commemorations.
All three stood for a minute of silence to remember officers who had lost their lives while on duty.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid tribute to the fallen officers who ““represent the very best of us”.
“They laid down their lives to prevent us from coming to harm and we owe them a huge debt,” he said.
“The dedication and selflessness that they showed in serving their communities will never be forgotten.”
The Rev Wilbraham said he was “immensely proud” that a solution had been found to allow the service to go ahead and that he stood “in virtual solidarity” with the affected families.
“Not being able to meet physically leaves a void, especially for those whose pain is lifelong,” he said.
“I am immensely proud that we pulled together to try to fill that void with our online service and I thank the families who contributed.
“This is an honourable day and a poignant reminder of the dangerous nature of policing. We stand in virtual solidarity to pay our respects.”
John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “Policing comes with a huge amount of risk and this is at the forefront of our minds, even more so following the devastating news on Friday when our colleague in the Metropolitan Police was killed.
“National Police Memorial Day ensures that police officers who gave their all are never forgotten.
“We must always remember them – their commitment and ultimate sacrifice to public service.
“Every day police officers selflessly put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of others – I thank them, and I am proud to represent them.”