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OF all the hundreds of police officers who bathed Christ Church Cathedral in blue to farewell Sergeant Geoffrey Graham Richardson, none cut a more poignant figure than his son Patrick, wearing his father’s hat and a blue outfit reminiscent of his dad’s cherished uniform.
Sergeant Richardson’s wife Senior Constable Margaret King and their sons Patrick, 7, and Aiden, five months, were saluted as they entered the church for the full police funeral, which was attended by more than 1000 mourners including NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione, Governor of NSW David Hurley and Deputy Premier Troy Grant.
“It was heartwarming, but it tore my heart apart,” Commissioner Scipione said after the service. “To see Patrick – a boy who loved his father, by all accounts idolised his father – wearing his dad’s hat is something I think will probably stay with me all of my days.”
Sergeant Richardson, 43, from the Port Stephens Local Area Command, died just before midnight on March 5, after the police car he was driving crashed into a tree on Lovedale Road, Allandale.
Commissioner Scipione delivered a valedictory and retired Chief Inspector Mark Cook gave a eulogy on Monday that honoured Sergeant Richardson’s 18 years as a highly-regarded police officer who served with courage, honour and distinction.
Senior Constable King said her husband was her “mentor, teacher, colleague, unrivaled hero and best friend” and spoke of the other role he relished; being a father.
“We have been living the beautiful dream with our babies in our paradise – something that we worked very hard for and fought battles for, but in the end the hard work and challenges were all worth it,” she said.
“The look in your eyes when you saw your sons will stay with me forever.
“The pride and love you had for them knew no bounds and you worked hard every day to be the best daddy you could possibly be.
“To our beautiful boys... Daddy is sorry that this has happened. He will always be with you, watching over you and steering you gently on the path that he wanted for the pair of you.”
Police officers, many in tears, formed a guard of honour as the hearse carrying Sergeant Richardson’s coffin followed a marching escort along Church Street. A police helicopter also performed a flyover.
Respected officer died serving others
SERGEANT Geoffrey Graham Richardson has been revered as a police officer who was highly respected by his colleagues, trusted by crime victims and who died the way he lived, serving others.
Commissioner Andrew Scipione delivered a moving valedictory at Sergeant Richardson’s Monday funeral, in which he posthumously awarded Sergeant Richardson The National Police Service Medal, the 15 year clasp to the NSW Police Medal and the Commissioner's Commendation for Service.
Commissioner Scipione said Sergeant Richardson, known as Geoff, Richo or to his close mates, Buddha, led by example, took great pride in his uniform and volunteered to help colleagues in need.
“Geoff was not just a first-class police officer but a gregarious good bloke,” Commissioner Scipione said. “A man popular with fellow officers and good with those he encountered in the course of work – he was firm with offenders but he would also empathise with victims.”
Retired Chief Inspector Mark Cook said Sergeant Richardson was born the much loved third son in a rough and tumble family of five boys and was passionate about the great outdoors and sport. He was in the final year of a business and accountancy degree when he was inspired by a family of police officers next door.
He served in Campbelltown, Cobar, Central Hunter and Lake Macquarie before he was transferred to Port Stephens in July 2015.
Commissioner Scipione said sometimes an officer’s oath to protect and serve had a tragic outcome. “It is inevitable and appropriate that we grieve and feel his loss. To my mind, it is just as appropriate that we do his career and life proper justice; that we honour his memory by following his example.”
PORT Stephens police officer Sergeant Geoffrey Graham Richardson has been remembered as his family's “unrivalled hero” in an emotional farewell that spilled outside Christ Church Cathedral.
More than 1000 mourners, including NSW Governor David Hurley, NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione and Deputy Premier Troy Grant attended the funeral of Sargeant Richardson, 43, who died on March 5 after his police vehicle hit a tree at Allandale.
His wife Margaret, also a police officer, told those assembled that she had tried to find the words to describe how she was feeling, but there were none to explain the “stinging, searing pain in my very core... the sense of loss... the terror at facing a future without you”.
She said her husband had been her “mentor, teacher, colleague, unrivalled hero and best friend”.
Senior Constable Margaret King said her husband did not let a day go by without telling their young sons Patrick, 7, who wore his fathers police cap, or baby Aiden, five months old, how much he loved them.
“You made them feel they were your entire world,” she said.
“You gave your sons a solid base to launch their amazing lives from.
“Your sons are your legacy.
“To our beautiful boys... Daddy is sorry that this has happened. But he wants you to remember that he believes very strongly that bad things happen when good men stand by and do nothing.”
Commissioner Scipione said he was posthumously bestowing three awards on Sergeant Richardson: the National Police Service Medal, the 15 year clasp to the NSW Police Medal and the Commissioner's Commendation for Service.
Commissioner Scipione said Sergeant Richardson, who was known to his colleagues as Geoff, Richo or Buddha, was “not just a first class police officer but a gregarious good bloke” who “led by example” and was “equally at home handling a violent offender as he was with supporting the victim of an assault”.
“He gave his life in the very way he lived it - in the service of others”.
As delivered by NSW Police Force Commissioner Andrew Scipione APM
At about 11.50pm on Saturday the 5th of March 2016, Sergeant Geoffrey Richardson, from the Port Stephens Local Area Command, was driving to assist colleagues who were engaged in a pursuit.
The police car he was driving crashed into a tree on Lovedale Road, Allandale. He was the only person in the car at the time of the crash.
Ambulance paramedics were called to the scene by nearby residents, and they arrived a short time later. Sadly, Sergeant Richardson had passed away before they arrived.
Sergeant Geoffrey Graham Richardson attested as a Probationary Constable on the 15th of May 1998.
He commenced general duties at Campbelltown before being confirmed at the rank of Constable on the 15th of May 1999.
He remained at Campbelltown until the 26th of March 2005 when he transferred to Cobar in far western New South Wales. While at Cobar he was promoted to the rank of Senior Constable.
After just over five years at Cobar, Sergeant Richardson moved to the Central Hunter Local Area Command.
Shortly thereafter, on the 26th of December 2010, he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and commenced duties at the Lake Macquarie Local Area Command.
Sergeant Richardson transferred from Lake Macquarie to Port Stephens Local Area Command - his final posting - in July 2015.
He was awarded the NSW Police Medal and the National Medal. He also received a Commander’s Commendation, a Region Commander’s Unit Citation, and many accolades from people in the community who had written in appreciation of his compassion and professionalism.
The day before Geoff’s passing, I travelled to Dungog to honour the memory of Sergeant 1st Class William Bowen, who passed away 100 years ago as the result of injuries he received while on duty.
The occasion was a commemoration; a centenary; almost a celebration of his memory. Time had eased the rawness of the tragedy of his passing.
But it brings to mind a sobering message that danger has always been a police officer’s enduring companion. It’s there both on and off duty, at the back of mind or at front, possibly in individuals or groups, in buildings, on pavements, around corners and on roads.
Police officers place themselves in harm’s way to reduce violence, crime, and the fear of crime. Sometimes their oath to protect and serve, their determination to do the best by their community, has a tragic outcome.
The price is a terrible one, but one that police officers are prepared to pay because they believe that the values we hold - and the freedom we enjoy – are worth the sacrifice.
We all pay the toll but we do not pay in equal measure; the burden falls heaviest on the families of officers who fall in the line of duty. No one feels more keenly the death of a police officer than their loved ones.
And on this occasion the loss is even more keenly felt because Geoff’s wife, Margaret, is also a police officer. Not only sharing the bond of family, but also sharing the ideals of protecting people and having to face hardship, conflict, and potential danger together.
Margaret, Patrick and baby Aiden have lost an adored husband and father. His father Graham - better known as Lofty - and mother Jeanette have lost a dearly-loved son; Warwick, Grant, Andrew and Adrian their friend, companion and brother.
However much we would like things to be different, nothing we do or say can change what has happened. All we can do is honour Geoff’s memory and hold his family in the warm embrace of the Police family.
Geoff was a much-loved and respected police officer. He was known as Geoff or “Richo”. To his close mates he was “Buddha”.
In the words of one colleague, he was a “policeman’s policeman”... committed to his job, committed to his mates, and committed to the community he served, and of which he was a part.
He was the exemplar of a family man. With his son Patrick, Geoff was involved in local junior Rugby and he was also deeply committed to his local Anglican Church - another bond that he shared with Margaret.
He took great pride in his uniform. He was always immaculately turned out and wanted other police to share that same pride. He was a protocol officer and serious about it. He understood that the way police present themselves matters; that authority brings with it a responsibility and that the symbols of office are important.
He wasn’t overbearing or a stickler. He led by example and other officers followed. He did not order or command or even badger. He didn’t need to.
And, by unanimous verdict, Geoff was not just a first-class police officer but a gregarious good bloke. A man popular with fellow officers and good with those he encountered in the course of work – he was firm with offenders but he would also empathise with victims.
One of his colleagues said of Geoff that his imposing stature and copybook attire never seemed to be a barrier to how victims responded to him. With Geoff they felt a genuine and comforting empathy in their time of need.
Geoff’s rapport with victims was part of a larger picture of a man who cared for those around him; especially his fellow officers. Geoff and Margaret were often in the vanguard of fundraising activities for colleagues in need.
Geoff himself was a peer support officer, an officer who volunteers to help colleagues in times of need. He would often reach out to colleagues he could see were in need of some support.
But it would be misleading to characterise Geoff as just a big-hearted Good Samaritan. As I said, he was equally at home handling a violent offender as he was with supporting the victim of an assault.
In fact, given the occasion, both husband and wife presented a formidable law enforcement presence.
The Region Commander’s Unit Citation he received was in recognition of bravery and commitment to duty when arresting offenders while off-duty in Nelson Bay on the 6th of February 2012.
What is remarkable about this incident is that the other recipient of that unit citation was his wife, Margaret. Together, while off-duty, they attended the scene of a collision to render assistance, but were confronted by a crowd of 10 to 15 hostile people.
Their citation read in part, “The officers responded to a motor vehicle collision to ensure the welfare of the occupants. Instead they faced a volatile and dangerous crowd who were actively protecting an offender and hindering police response.”
Despite both being assaulted, they managed to detain the driver and several other offenders, who were charged with various offences including High Range PCA, resisting arrest, hindering police, affray and malicious damage.
A key principle that underpins our Police Force is the notion that Police are the community, and the community are the Police. The reputation and success of the NSW Police Force therefore depends on the trust the community places in each and every police officer.
Sergeant Geoffrey Richardson epitomised all of the qualities needed to gain - and to maintain - that trust.
It is inevitable and appropriate that we grieve and feel his loss. To my mind, it is just as appropriate that we do his career and life proper justice; that we honour his memory by following his example.
We, all of us, can do well to look out more for others, at work and outside of work. To lead through our actions. To live our ideals.
Through his family, Geoff’s memory also lives on. And through his wife Margaret, his commitment to service will also live on.
It is my honour today, to posthumously confer three awards on Sergeant Geoffrey Richardson.
The National Police Service Medal: recognising his ethical and diligent service in protecting the community.
The establishment of the National Police Service Medal was signed by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II in November of 2010, and the Governor General awards the Medal on the recommendation of the responsible Commissioner of Police.
The 15 year clasp to the NSW Police Medal: recognising his ethical and diligent service.
After being approved by the Minister for Police and the Commissioner of Police, the medal was instituted on the 5th of February 2002. The medal is NOT awarded automatically for length of service. It is only awarded after a detailed review of the nominee’s service history to ensure the service was ethical and diligent. The clasp to the medal denotes the length of ethical and diligent service.
The Commissioner’s Commendation for Service.
In part the citation reads:
.... for outstanding and meritorious performance of duty as a member of the New South Wales Police Force, from 1998 to 2016 ....
Sergeant Richardson has displayed integrity, loyalty, commitment, professionalism and devotion to duty as a member of the New South Wales Police Force and is highly commended for his service.
Sergeant Geoffrey Richardson gave his life in the very way he had lived it; in the service of others.
His loss, tragic for his family and many friends, is profound for each and every one of us. No words are quite adequate to express or diminish that loss.
His passing reminds us that preserving our values and our freedom can exact a heavy toll. A toll that is not shared equally in our community.
We farewell Sergeant Geoffrey Richardson but he will not be forgotten. As is right and proper, his name will be etched into the granite of the Police Wall of Remembrance in Sydney as a permanent reminder that he laid down his life for the people of New South Wales.
I am humbled and deeply honoured to represent every member of the NSW Police Force here today to farewell a highly-regarded police officer who served his community with courage, honour and distinction.
A husband and father.
A son and brother.
A friend and colleague.
A police officer.
Vale Sergeant Geoffrey Richardson.
Our prayers go with you … may you rest in peace.