THE collar number of North Yorkshire Police officer Mick Atkinson, who was found dead at the weekend has been retired from use as a mark of respect.

Tributes to PC Atkinson have flooded in since the officer was found dead at the weekend, with friends, colleagues, senior officers and family members praising the dog handler, who had worked with the force since 2001.

On Tuesday, Brad Jackson, deputy secretary of the North Yorkshire Police Federation said he was a close friend of PC Atkinson, and was devastated by his death.

He also urged fellow officers who were touched by PC Atkinson's death to ensure they spoke to someone about it.

He said: "Mick was well regarded and loved by many. Facebook has been awash with tributes which has provided much comfort and support for Mick’s family.

"Mick was a very close personal friend of mine and I share the pain and emptiness than many of you are experiencing right now.

"I personally ask each and every one of you not to bottle these feelings up. Talk about it, talk about Mick, share your pain with others.

"If for your own reasons you feel you need more help and support please contact the Fed Office or me personally.

"We can help, we can also offer you professional confidential help. This is a difficult time for us all but together we are a strong family. The Thin Blue Line may have got thinner but our unique bond will make sure it will not break."

Details of a service in PC Atkinson's memory are still in the planning stages, but Mr Jackson said he was working with the family to organise a fund for donations to commemorate PC Atkinson.

He said: "We have also been asked if we can provide a tie pin in Mick’s memory. I have sourced a badge in the shape of a dog's paw displaying a covert Union Jack and thin blue line.

"The badge has now been redesigned to accommodate Mick’s number 1066. Although Mick wasn’t one for 'fuss' I feel it is subtle and adds more meaning.

"All of the money raised will go to the National K9 Memorial Fund which has been set up by a retired dog handler. Mick would most definitely approve of the badge and the great cause. We are also requesting that the number 1066 is retired from service in NYP in honour of Mick."

On Wednesday afternoon, Chief Constable Lisa Winward confirmed PC Atkinson's collar number had been retired as a mark of respect.

She said: "Mick’s death this weekend has come as a great shock to all.

"As a mark of respect, his collar number, 1066, has been retired and will not be reissued to any other officer who joins North Yorkshire Police.

"We are all very touched by the kind words from members of the public and our thoughts remain with Mick’s family, friends and colleagues at this extremely difficult time."