The annual Merseyside Police ‘Community First Awards’ took place last night (Tuesday, 8 October), recognising Police officers and staff for their dedication, bravery and professionalism.
The ceremony, which is now in its third year, saw members of the force celebrated for a range of achievements from investigation work, launching innovative new operations and safeguarding vulnerable people.
Partner agency professionals, volunteers and community leaders were also recognised for their invaluable work alongside the police and their commitment to the communities of Merseyside.
Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, Andy Cooke QPM, was joined in presenting the awards to the winners by representatives of the 12 companies or organisations whose sponsorship of the awards night had made the event possible.
The event was held at the Hilton Hotel Liverpool, where guests received a warm welcome from schoolchildren from the force’s Mini Police initiative. A young musician provided the evening with sterling entertainment and a raffle took place to raise money for The Merseyside Police and High Sheriffs Charitable Fund and the Stand Tall foundation.
Speaking after the awards, Chief Constable Cooke said: “Year upon year I continue to be left astounded by the achievements of officers and staff that we hear about at the Community First Awards, and I would like to congratulate, and thank, all the winners and nominees for their exceptional work.
“I am incredibly proud to be the Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, a force that truly puts our communities at the heart of everything we do, and I know that every single day our officers and staff continue to go the extra mile to keep those communities safe.
“Policing is by no means an easy job yet the passion and commitment of those who choose this career is second to none. Last night we saw just a handful of examples of the incredible work that goes on every single day across Merseyside and it is so important that these achievements are recognised and celebrated.
“This awards night would not have been possible without the generosity of all our sponsors and the local companies and organisations who kindly donated an award or raffle prize. In particular I would like to take this opportunity to give my special thanks to Morgan Sindall who are our headline sponsor for this evening but with great thanks also to: Softcat, Everton FC, Motorola Solutions, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Wilmott Dixon Construction, Liverpool FC, Reed Talent Solutions, BT, Liverpool John Moore’s University, Police Mutual and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.
“All the proceeds from the evening will be going to the Merseyside Police and High Sheriffs Charitable Fund which helps groups run crime prevention and educational and training schemes in our most deprived areas, and the Stand Tall Foundation, which is administered by Charities Trust to help us raise the funds needed to look after the brave police horses in our Mounted Section.
“Finally, I would again like to wholeheartedly thank and congratulate the winners and nominees. I am incredibly proud to work with such inspirational individuals and I am extremely pleased that last night their achievements were recognised as deserved.”
Amongst the winners were four officers that launched Operation Lamprey, to tackle the exploitation of vulnerable residents in Bootle by drugs gangs and Megan Buckland, who took on the role of the forces first ever Digital PCSO after just 12 months with Merseyside Police.
Other winners included Police officer of the Year, Constable Chris Eastwood, who carried out 175 stop searches, arrested 52 people and contributed to more than 21 positive crime outcomes last year alone.
Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy said: "Merseyside Police’s annual Community First Awards are a wonderful opportunity to recognise the dedication, commitment and bravery of those who work around the clock, often in extraordinary circumstances, to keep our communities safe.
"It was a humbling and inspirational evening. We heard a few of the very many remarkable stories that take place, every day, of officers acting with great skill, compassion and courage to help others.
“I warmly congratulate all of this year’s winners and nominees and thank them for everything they have done to serve the people of Merseyside. Their work makes me very proud to be Merseyside’s Police Commissioner and last night was a small way of demonstrating our appreciation for everything they do."
The winners are:
Chief Constable's Award –
This year, the Chief has selected someone as overall winner who he feels is the epitome of what Community First is all about.
This Local Policing Officer’s dedication, passion and commitment have helped him forge partnerships, and bring assurance and cohesion to a number of different communities.
The service he provides is wide and varied, and has helped in setting up and securing strong relationships, providing information and building a trust in the Police Service that didn’t exist previously. He works with Muslim faiths at three separate Mosques; large synagogues; male and female Pakistani centres; Yemenese, Iraqi and Somali associations; and the Eritrean community.
This officer supports local primary school trips to the local Mosques, where he shows pupils of all faiths around and helps them improve their understanding about the Muslim faith.
During a murder investigation, he persuaded the parents of young people believed to be involved, to get their children to hand themselves in. He was also able to provide the Family Liaison Officer with information about the victim’s family, mosque processes and funeral arrangements, to improve the service we provided to the family.
Despite the challenging environment he works in, a strong community identity and a will to succeed has been engendered by this officer’s enthusiasm, constant smile, and his ability to provide an excellent service to every person he meets. Communities are at the heart of everything he does, and I’m privileged to announce that this year, the Chief Constable’s Award winner – and please welcome him to the stage is – CONSTABLE JAMAL MALIQUE AL-SHABAZZ.
PCC Award –
Carol McGrath is the PCC's Community First Award nomination for her 48 years dedication and commitment to all at Merseyside Police.
Carol started with Liverpool and Bootle Police as a policewoman in 1968. She was one of the first policewomen to work nights and paved the way for many other women when she was posed to St Anne Street as the first woman CID Aide in 1973.
Carol left the role in 19788 to have the first of her two children, returning between maternity leave, to work as a typist in the secretariat to Chief Constable Ken Oxford. Following this, she assisted CID at Cheapside by typing murder files, before moving onto complaints and discipline.
Despite working full time and looking after two young children, Carol took it upon herself to study psychology, clinical Hypnotherapy and Counselling. After gaining qualifications, Carol became a Welfare Officer at the Occupational Health Unit, where she found herself dealing with complex cases and traumatised staff. As the first Trauma Risk Incident Management (TRiM) Coordinator, Carol facilitated TRiM training, arranging assessments for staff who had attended serious incidents, and she is recognised by many of her colleagues for her compassionate and caring nature.
Carol was often asked for by name, continuing to support colleagues long after their treatment has ended. The PCC is delighted to honour Carol's hard and selfless work. She will be sorely missed following her recent retirement.
Diversity Award –
Neil was an Inspector with Merseyside Police up until 2016, when he retired.
Described as a ‘dedicated and genuine individual’ by his colleagues, since his retirement Neil has worked tirelessly for the Custody Diversity and Inclusion group.
The list of Neil’s achievements while in this role is endless. To name a few, he has completed a religious clothing policy, purchased each custody suite a sight impaired cane and conducted several awareness visits to custody suites with youth groups and members of the public.
Neil works with different faith groups, charities and organisations forging and maintaining solid relationships with the public. He has done all of this despite suffering with an illness which affects his motor skills and continues to selflessly give up his time to serve the communities he is passionate about with laudable commitment.
Innovation Award –
Operation Lamprey. Following a rise in exploitation of vulnerable residents in Bootle by drugs gangs, Constables Mollie Jones, Jodi May, Chris Davies and Gareth Jones, set about finding ways to put a stop to it.
They set up Operation Lamprey and worked closely with partners including social landlords, to share information and develop tactics to protect victims and pursue the dealers.
The team used data to spot which residents might be most vulnerable to exploitation then worked with housing agencies to safely relocate them.
At the same time, officers targeted the organised crime groups exploiting these vulnerable people. Through an improved intelligence picture the officers were able to execute drug warrants right in the heart of their community.
As a result, Operation Lamprey has led to more than 35 victims being protected and dozens of offenders being convicted.
“We stay in touch with some of the people we have helped and it’s nice to see how they have moved on and been able to improve their lives,” says Constable Mollie Jones.
Police Officer of the Year Award -
Constable Chris Eastwood joined the force five-and-a-half years ago after getting a taste for policing as a Special Constable. Chris was at Edge Hill University when the freeze on officer recruitment was removed and he decided he couldn’t miss the opportunity.
Chris is what was historically known as a good “thief taker”. Last year he carried out 175 stop searches, arrested 52 people and contributed to more than 21 positive crime outcomes. His proactive use of stop search resulted in the recovery of at least 10 knives and offensive weapons, and more than 20 separate drug recoveries.
He has been highlighted by the force lead on stop search as one of the best performers in the force and he proved to be a valuable member of the response team at Admiral Street where he was always one of the first to volunteer for operational deployments. Chris has recently moved to Matrix Disruption where there is no doubt his high levels of self-motivation and performance will be well received.
Employee of the Year Award –
Megan Buckland. Megan, 24, joined the force as a PCSO in January 2017 and took on the entirely new role of Digital PCSO just 12 months later.
She has shown great initiative to turn a job description on a piece of paper into a real position delivering clear benefits for the community.
Megan comes up with creative ways to engage with young people and has delivered online safety presentations to nearly 2,000 students, meeting an ever-increasing demand from schools and community groups for her input. She has attended kids clubs in evenings, training on weekends and an Age UK luncheon for the elderly.
Megan went over and above to help the Human Trafficking team identify possible victims online, directly helping to protect them from harm.
The glowing feedback and interest from other forces in replicating Megan’s role shows the impact her work is having across Merseyside.
Volunteer of the Year Award –
Acting Special Sgt Nathan Beavin. Being punched by a soldier twice his size, confronted by a knife-wielding criminal in an alley, and having a door slammed on his hand by a suspect he was chasing – is all in a day’s work for Special Sergeant Nathan.
The 21-year-old volunteer supervises up to 13 people in the Knowsley Targeted Team.
Despite being described by his supervisor as ‘quiet and unassuming’, Nathan once borrowed the porters’ van to go undercover after a spike in vehicle crime.
“I just thought I’d try a new tactic,” Nathan says. “It worked because I saw a stolen motorbike doing wheelies and was able to get really close and jump out and grab the handlebars to stop it going anywhere.”
Having racked up 2000 hours of volunteering and 96 arrests in 2018 alone, Nathan is warmly regarded by the community for his all-action style.
“It feels really good going home knowing you’ve done something really worthwhile,” he says. “It’s why you join the police: to lock up bad guys and keep people safe.”
Team of the Year Award -
C Block EIRT Admiral Street. The C Block Central Emergency Incident Response Team (EIRT) certainly don’t believe in taking it easy. In the last financial year alone they have attended 7,200 incidents, made nearly 1,000 arrests, completed almost 1,000 stop searches and recorded 3,000 crime reports.
The team were first responders for the Echo Arena fire in December 2017 and were responsible for managing emotional and escalating tensions at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, during the widely publicised case of Alfie Evans.
As well as maintaining the highest emergency response performance in force, they also regularly take part in key operations targeting knife crime and burglary. They also deploy proactive patrols and technology to target organised crime groups and offenders.
The team has repeatedly been singled out for praise and positive feedback from local community groups and the judiciary, and attribute their success to strong leadership, diversity, communication skills and a good sense of humour!
Leadership Award –
Det Sgt Anthony Roberts. Detective Sergeant Anthony Roberts, from MSOC Investigations, has worked in Covert Investigations since 2018 and his nomination comes with the backing of the whole syndicate.
Among many investigation successes, he was integral to Operation Starlight and led the trial, with the suspects jailed for more than 130 years.
As a team leader, he leads by example and inspires his team to demonstrate the same dedication with the enthusiasm, humour and empathy he shows on a daily basis.
He has supported staff through difficult personal issues, proactively identifying wellbeing concerns at an early stage and providing a sympathetic ear and extensive support.
The last word on DS Roberts goes to one of his officers: “He never moans, he just keeps going no matter how tough it is and even when he has work up to his ears he still has time to help others and put the team before himself.”
Service Award –
Operation Castle was set up in March 2018 following a sharp increase in domestic burglaries in Merseyside. The team’s aim was to reduce the impact of burglary offences on our communities by targeting prominent burglary offenders and bringing them to justice.
Operation Castle has had a significant impact with a huge reduction in burglary offences across Merseyside. Last year, burglary offences reduced by 24%, which equated to 2000 less offences, which in turn meant at least 2000 less victims. In addition to the hugely improved reductions in offences, the positive outcome rate improved by 17% with numerous prolific burglary offenders sent to prison for more than 145 years in total.
The success is down to the team working as One Team with colleagues from other strands. However, the most significant factor in this success is undoubtedly the determination, professionalism and commitment of the Operation Castle staff who should take great pride in their fantastic achievements on behalf of the communities of Merseyside.
Partnership Award –
Christopher Rattigan. Chris has volunteered thousands of hours during his 15 year service at Hetherlow Community Centre in Walton.
Originally asked to manage the centre in 2004, his hard work and dedication meant he’s been re-elected every year since.
In his 15 years Chris has built the centre’s visitor numbers from a handful to 13,000 per year. He’s arranged educational courses, fundraising events, reading clubs and even dance classes, providing a great space where the community can socialise, gain skills and learn about healthy lifestyles.
He works with charities supporting disabled people and has been a pillar in the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, providing them with a place to worship.
In his role as an Independent Advisory Group member, Chris offers Merseyside Police invaluable advice on gun/gang crime, and he has also developed a programme with the Probation Service to mentor and rehabilitate ex-offenders.
His ability to think of solutions, tackle prejudice and make vulnerable people feel at ease is admirable.
Career Achievement Award-
Constable Mike Fox hit the road running when he took on the role of releasing officer and investigator for Operation Tango in 2006. He ensured the force successfully used new legislation allowing officers to seize vehicles from uninsured and unlicensed drivers. He realised that criminals involved in serious organised crime were often driving unlicensed and uninsured vehicles (many of which were high powered, expensive cars) putting members of the public at risk.
Mike wrote the national guide for the release/retention of seized vehicles, which was adopted by other forces, and he has been visited by representatives of numerous forces to see how it should be done.
His work contributed to keeping thousands of uninsured and unlicensed drivers off the roads, making the roads safer for the communities of Merseyside, disrupting criminals and allowing the Chief Constable to sell vehicles resulting in more than £3million coming in to the force to fund initiatives which contribute to improving the community and lives of the people of Merseyside.
CONSTABLE LEE DIXON, CONSTABLE DARREN WESTON, CONSTABLE NICHOLAS HOUGHTON – BRAVERY AWARD
When off-duty Constable Lee Dixon spotted a man wanted for drugs supply in Wavertree he used his initiative and set up an operation to arrest him.
During a subsequent plain clothes patrol he spotted two men on bikes, and whilst neither were the man he wanted, his suspicions were raised when he saw that both men had their faces covered.
Not resting on his laurels, he shouted up for Matrix colleagues, Constables Darren Weston and Nicholas Houghton, and the pair started a search of nearby Mill Lane.
During the search they spotted Jamie “Red” Hanley, who tried to escape on one of the bikes. Undeterred Darren tackled Hanley and a struggle ensued as he attempted to get away.
Nick saw the struggle and went to help Darren, it was at this point they saw Hanley was armed with two pistols. Despite the risk they remained professional and composed and detained Hanley until armed response colleagues arrived and took him into custody.
Hanley was later jailed for six years.
Tonight’s sponsors were:
Liverpool City Region Combined Authority
Wilmott Dixon Construction
Reed Talent Solutions
Liverpool John Moore’s University
The office of the Police and Crime Commissioner