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‘Inspirational’ policing and member of the publics’ ‘exceptional courage’ celebrated at Force Awards

The Force Awards winners

Fighting off knife-wielding shoplifters, rushing to someone in need on a busy motorway and battling legal difficulties to gain justice for an 18-year-old man are among some of the remarkable stories behind the final Force Awards of 2023. 

 Officers, members of the public and their families were invited to Police and Fire Headquarters, in Portishead, on Wednesday 29 November, where 56 people were honoured. 

Recipients received one of the following awards for their hard work, dedication, bravery, and selflessness: Chief Constable Commendation, Angela Yeoman Award, Waley Cohen Award or Royal Humane Society Awards.  

(L-R) High Sheriff of Somerset Roger Drewett, Chief Constable Sarah Crew, PCC Mark Shelford

Speaking at the ceremony, Chief Constable Sarah Crew said: “It is a very great honour to extend our recognition to some members of the public, who have demonstrated exceptional courage, surpassing their civic responsibilities. Their selfless acts serve as a testament to the collaborative spirit which binds communities and law enforcement together.  

 ”To my colleagues in policing, I would say this; at the heart of our service is a desire to make a difference and, it is clear, that those of you receiving recognition have gone above and beyond to do exactly that – make a difference. 

“The stories behind your awards are simply inspiring. Among them are examples of exceptional investigative work, outstanding victim care, remarkable acts of bravery, brilliant partnership working, ground-breaking problem-solving and some truly committed service improvement. 

“The work you do often goes unseen by most, and yet it ensures our communities can go about their lives in freedom and safety. That work is brought into the light at this ceremony.” 

PCC Mark Shelford with Youth Project and Engagement Coordinator Ellen Campbell

Among the recipients were Youth Project and Engagement Coordinator Ellen Campbell and Chief Inspector Mike Vass for their respective work facilitating training to two different groups of people.

For Ellen Campbell, her award was in celebration of her work in delivering extensive training programmes in schools across the force area.

Thanks to Ellen’s leadership, a package of lessons focused on crucial subjects such as knife crime, hate crime, and gender-based abuse were delivered to more than 5,500 students.

Speaking about her award win, she said: “It feels really good to be recognised. I am really passionate about what I do and I think the messaging we are getting out is really important and is working.” 

PCC Mark Shelford with CI Mike Vass.

For Chief Inspector Mike Vass, he was recognised for his work in bringing public-facing bleed kits into the community.

In total, 144 public-facing 24-hour access bleed kits were distributed across the force area.

CI Vass, who is the force’s lead for knife crime, said: “There was a real call from the communities in Avon and Somerset to see if there was anything we could do that could potentially save a life.

“That was when I started to look at the bleed kit provision to achieve that in Avon and Somerset.

“It is strange and emotional to receive this award. To listen to some of the fantastic achievements, it is really humbling. We are here to serve the public and protect those communities.

“I am a member of these communities, so are my children, my partner, family and friends and I want them to have a safer, happier future.”

Chief Constable Sarah Crew with PC Steve Wright

PC Steve Wright was awarded the Chief Constable Commendation for his work on increasing awareness of and support to officers who are victims of hate crime when out on the job.

He delivered vital training to every patrol team across the force and, following this training, a change in behaviour has been noted from officers witnessing similar incidents.

Speaking about the inspiration behind his work, PC Wright said: “I have experience hate crime myself more times than I can count. I can’t put into words, you get degrees [of abuse]. You get the odd word but then you can get a sustained half an hour of racial abuse and it takes a lot of control to not react.

“As a police officer, you expect anger to a certain degree and, if someone is shouting at me, they are normally shouting at the uniform. But as soon as they mention my colour, then it becomes personal. If I am arresting you, it isn’t personal, I am just doing my job.”

Chief Constable Sarah Crew with DCI Roger Doxsey

Another award winner was DCI Roger Doxsey, who was the senior investigating officer on the case of the death of 18-year-old Dontae Davis.  

DCI Doxsey was presented with a Chief Constable’s Commendation on his work securing justice for Dontae’s family, who died in Bristol in October 2021.  

Speaking at the ceremony, Major Crime Investigation Team (MCIT), Det Supt Gary Haskins, said: “When evidential difficulties meant the Crown Prosecution Service were unlikely to charge the defendant, DCI Doxsey led the team in a calm and methodical way, proactively gathering evidence to illustrate the years of conflict between two rival groups involved. 

 ”DCI Doxsey’s tenacity and skilful leadership ensured the case’s progression. His impact resonates profoundly, not just in securing a conviction, but in addressing issues within a community with significant tensions.” 

Chief Constable Sarah Crew with member of the public Mohamed Absiye

 It wasn’t just colleagues who were honoured at the ceremony. Six members of the public were also celebrated for their acts of bravery. 

For shop security guard Mohamed Absiye, it was a normal shift, but when he challenged two suspected shoplifters, he was forced to defend the shop and the members of staff and public inside against a man wielding a knife.   

He said: “As soon as I saw the knife, I did shake. But it took me seconds to make a decision and I knew I needed to do everything to defend the staff and customers. 

“I locked the doors as soon as possible and he tried to break back in. It was my duty, and no matter the problem, I will rise to it. 

“To receive this award is really unexpected. I am so happy to be here and to be recognised. I am very proud.”