The piece, boldly dubbed ‘More than 1,600 officers have been killed in line of duty’ was produced by BBC London on Friday, following the overnight incident in Croydon. A 23-year-old suspect shot and killed a police officer moments after being arrested. The suspect then turned the gun on himself.
Despite having the deceptive headline, the BBC piece explains that said “1,600 officers” have been “killed by criminal acts in the line of duty since 1862,” citing the National Police Memorial roll of honor.
In fact, the UK Police roll of honor spans back to the Night Watch, created by Charles II, that even predated the formal establishment of the United Kingdom itself. The list contains more than 4,000 names of members of various law enforcement forces that have existed in Britain since the late 17th century. Some 500 police officers from Great Britain, and some 1,000 more from assorted colonial forces more are still being researched.
It was not immediately clear why the BBC rather arbitrarily cut the list at the 1862 mark. The decision might simply stem from the fact that the earliest police casualties, mentioned in a daily remembrance widget, were two constables who died back in 1862.
Sky News, for instance, decided to go past that milestone, tracing back officers' killings to the 17th century instead. The channel reported likewise on Friday that “more than 1,600 officers have died while performing vital tasks such as foiling terrorists, quelling rioters and marshalling protests since 1600", citing the very same document. The article is still available on its website.
The bizarre tribute story did not miss the eye of the Internet crowd, immediately coming under a storm of mockery. Many users accused the BBC of producing the worst-ever clickbait headline, arguing that it would not hurt to explicitly state the timeframe.
Others targeted the honor roll itself, fuming about what forces exactly are honored on the list that includes colonial paramilitary units such as the Royal Irish Constabulary.
Some users took a more light hearted approach, joking about a very broad definition of what being killed “in the line of duty” means. The list mentions officers who perished in various accidents, such as being run over by a horse carriage.