Cumbria’s Chief Constable has paid tribute not just to PC Bill Barker, but to the friends and colleagues who had to remain professional during the tragedy of losing a well-loved friend and police officer.

Remembering the 2009 flood, she has also commended the communities and volunteers in various areas affected by the flood, which cost the life of PC Barker.

Chief Constable Michelle Skeer was in command from 5am on the morning that PC Barker died, as he tried to get motorists off the Northside bridge at Workington. It was one of several bridges throughout West Cumbria being affected by the flooding.

“I was Gold Commander at the time,” recalled Mrs Skeer. “When I took over, the rivers had been rising through the night and the infrastructure of the area, including the Northside bridge, were increasingly becoming a concern.

“Northside collapsed and Bill was washed away. His death had a huge impact. Bill was well-known and a very well-liked friend and colleague. His wife Hazel and their children were also very well known to us.

“Our staff had to deal with this loss as well as cope with a major incident. We had to try and support the family and the officers dealing with the loss of a friend.

“They were absolutely professional and hard-working. Many of them came on days off and many stayed long after their duties had finished.”

She said friends in the force remember PC Barker every day and through annual events that have been set up, but especially this year, the tenth anniversary of his death.

“We will be remembering him formally with his family today,” said Mrs Skeer.

Police suffered another personal blow in 2009 when Workington police station was flooded. It meant the loss of equipment and displacement of staff. But, again, they worked professionally to ensure the impact was minimal.

She said in 2005 the Rickergate police station in Carlisle was flooded: “We learned a lot from that, that we were able to put into practise in Workington.”

Mrs Skeer also paid tribute to the other emergency services and the communities involved in the floods of 2005, 2009 and 2015.

She said the groups had worked together well and done a fantastic job.

“My own house in Carlisle was flooded in 2005 and we were unable to return for 11 months,” Mrs Skeer continued. “That is one of the things about the floods. You deal with the major event. The water goes in and you expect it to go out but it doesn’t work like that.

“The major event ends, but there are still people with a lot of needs. My own experience means I now empathise closely with others who have been flooded.”

She said the aftermath was especially difficult after the 2009 flood.

“Our infrastructure was massively impacted which means bridges were either washed away or had to be closed because they were no longer safe.

“It caused great problems in that some communities were completely cut off. Some areas were isolated. a number of ongoing problems.”

But she said it was the determination of Cumbrian people that won the day.

“The people of Cumbria are so resilient, though,” Mrs Skeer said. “They get on with it and they come together in times like this. The floods bring out the best of most people.”

She said while the 2005 flood affected Carlisle more than anywhere, 2009 was particularly bad in West Cumbria.

However, 2015, affected the whole of Cumbria: “It was the worst in terms of having to spread resources so thinly. I think we have learned how to react earlier.”