PC Keith Palmer: Portrait of a hero

PC Keith Palmer - a 'solid, reliable' policeman taken before his time

PC Keith Palmer was laid to rest on Monday (Credit: Twitter @ProtectRPolice)

Monday, April 10, 2017

A month ago, PC Keith Palmer was a little-known figure beyond his most intimate circle of family and friends.

Yet today he was buried a national hero, an emblem of Britain's steady, unstinting resistance to hatred.

This transformation took place in 82 seconds, the time it took for terrorist Khalid Masood to carry out his terror attack on March 22.

After careering across Westminster Bridge in his car, Masood got out at the gates of Westminster to find Palmer barring his way. Palmer was stabbed and, while officers were able to shoot Masood immediately, the officer could not be saved, despite the valiant efforts of a team of rescue workers (ably assisted by volunteers such as foreign office minister Tobias Ellwood, who was seen pumping the officer's chest in an attempt to resuscite him).

Masood may have cruelly, mindlessly taken Palmer's life but he also gave Britain a new figurehead, a beacon of hope against the vile creed the terrorist himself espoused. Palmer has been laid to rest with full honours, both from the police and the general public.

Yet Palmer was a hero long before the public knew about it. He began by serving as a member of the military, in the 100 Regiment Royal Artillery. This time period was where he met James Cleverly, now an MP for Braintree, who paid an emotional tribute to him in the Commons.

Eventually, drawn by the lure of a career in the Police, he joined the Met’s Territorial Support Group, gaining experience in the borough of Bromley. Cleverly, in a tribute piece for Politics Home, claims Palmer carved out a reputation for hard work, being nominated for awards and making over 150 arrests in one year.

In 2001, he moved into Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command (PDPC) and for 15 years, he worked hard at his job, becoming friendly with politicians and fellow officers alike. His colleague, Inspector Mark Turner, called him a “solid and reliable” member of the team, who did the job “quietly and efficiently.”

Eventually he took up a role at Westminster, and had been serving there for roughly a year before the events of March 22.

As a mark of respect, the number on his shoulder number – 4157U – will be retired permanently. He has received a 'full force' state funeral - the highest mark of respect afforded by the British police force, for those who are killed in the line of duty.

Even the Queen has paid her respects to the 48-year-old. The night before his funeral, Palmer's coffin was allowed to rest in Westminster’s Chapel of St Mary Undercroft. This is an honour normally reserved for heads of state - its most recent recipient was Margaret Thatcher - but the Queen allowed for PC Palmer's body to repose in the chapel prior to his funeral.

In his personal time, the 48-year-old was a long-time supporter of Charlton Athletic football club, a season ticket holder. In respect to him, the club placed a red and white scarf on his seat at their home stadium, The Valley.

Palmer leaves behind a family – his wife and five-year-old daughter. Roughly 50 family members were present for the service today, and they have hailed him called him a “wonderful dad and husband" as well as a "friend to all."

As the tributes over social media roll in, it’s clear this quiet, efficient police officer has made his mark on the nation, his bravery and dedication the defining features of a man tragically taken before his time.