Exceptional public service recognised at police and fire service annual awards ceremony
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Police officers, firefighters, staff and volunteers who have gone above and beyond to provide exceptional public service have been honoured at an awards ceremony.
The Joint Annual Awards Ceremony for North Yorkshire Police and North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service was held at Sandburn Hall near York on Friday 24 November 2023.
Hosted by Police Fire and Crime Commissioner Zoë Metcalfe, Chief Constable Lisa Winward and Chief Fire Officer Jonathan Dyson, guests heard stories of outstanding work, exemplary service, bravery and dedication to duty.
Commissioner Zoë said: “The ceremony is an important opportunity to highlight the extraordinary work that our brave officers, firefighters, volunteers and police and fire staff provide - both on the front line and behind the scenes - to go above and beyond for our communities, helping people to be safe and feel safe wherever they are and whatever they are doing.
“I was delighted to be there, supporting these awards in their eighth year for North Yorkshire Police and third year in collaboration with North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, as well as staff working within our collaborative shared services functions.
“The awards are designed to recognise and celebrate exceptional service to the public and provide inspiration for people inside and outside of the services who want to do their part as well.
“My congratulations go to everyone. I am very proud of all the wonderful work being done by both the winners and nominees.”
It was a poignant evening for Chief Constable Lisa Winward as it came at the end of her policing career with North Yorkshire Police ahead of her forthcoming retirement.
CC Winward said : “It is always a pleasure to hear the stories of bravery, exemplary work and dedication to duty, and see the pride in everyone’s faces as they accept their award. But this year was particularly emotional as it will be the last awards ceremony I attend as chief constable.
“The evening encompassed all that I have seen over my career with the force, the absolute devotion to duty, the commitment and the drive of all our officers, staff and volunteers to do their very best for the people of North Yorkshire. I am immensely proud of their achievements.”
Special guests included Margaret Goodman, mother of the late Special Constable Glenn Goodman, Deputy Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, David Kenworthy, The High Sheriff of North Yorkshire Clare, and representatives from sponsors, Unison, The Police Federation, the National Association of Retired Police Officers, CGI, Axon, Niche, Truvelo, Motorola, Dell Technologies and the Insight Team at Police and Fire UK.
And the winners are…
Public Choice Award and Leadership Award
Sergeant John Pepper of Richmond Response Team won the coveted Public Choice Award, voted for by members of the public.
John is an acting sergeant on our response team based in Richmond. He has won the overall award for leadership following multiple nominations from his team. It’s now over to you to decide if he should win the Public Choice Award for North Yorkshire Police.
John has consistently demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities and goes above and beyond to support his team, inspiring them and leading from the front, resulting in a happy, motivated and highly committed team.
In their nominations, his team have described him as: “An exceptional role model, his professional competence and leadership is something to admire and learn from.
Sergeant Pepper's breadth of policing knowledge and his ability not to flail under pressure is a testament to his character.
He is never too busy if you need to talk to him about something that is on your mind, his door is always open and he will always give his time without question, regardless of his own commitments and busy work schedule.
When members of the team have struggled with mental wellbeing, John’s care and compassion has helped them remain at work, knowing that they have his full support. This can only benefit the wider organisation and the communities in which we police.
John has this special friendly, genuine and sincere presence about him which uplifts everyone and sets the tone for the shift ahead.
He has always had a way that motivates the team and will always strive to go that little bit further to help and support you especially with professional development. His kind words of encouragement inspire you to achieve and fulfil your aspirations and will personally go out of his way to help you succeed.
He embodies North Yorkshire Police’s ethics and values in everything he does.
John relishes the challenge of his role in frontline policing and is motivated wholly by safeguarding victims and bringing offenders to justice.
Glenn Goodman Memorial Trophy
Special Constable Ezequiel Gomez Balaguer (Ez) has been awarded the Glenn Goodman Memorial Trophy, awarded each year in memory of Special Constable Glenn Goodman who was murdered while on duty in 1992.
Ez's commitment to policing is exceptional alongside his full-time, demanding, job. In the past 12
months he has attended almost 100 operational duties including 39 concerns for safety, 22 domestic violence incidents, 10 missing person enquiries and 22 suspicious activity reports.
He also plays a active role in promoting the Special Constabulary, fronting recruitment campaigns, attending awareness sessions for prospective new officers and mentoring Special Constabulary student officers.
His presence on shift, lifts the entire team and they know they can always rely on his effort and commitment. Knowing he does all of this for free, somehow working his shifts around a busy work and family life, really put things in perspective for his colleagues.
Special Constables are voluntary police officers who give up their own time to keep their communities safe. They have the same powers and uniform as regular police officers. Their history can be traced back 100s of years.
Innovation and Problem Solving Award
The winners of the Innovation and Problem Solving Award are our Professional Standards Team.
They won the award after leading a national multi-agency pilot scheme to improve the integrity of the police service by developing a system to carry out monthly checks on the force’s workforce via the Police National Database. A recent report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Service following an inspection of vetting, misconduct, and misogyny in the police service, highlighted the good work by the force and recommends that all forces make routine use of the PND as a tool for revealing any unreported adverse information about officers and staff. Read more about the pilot here
The Team of the Year Award
The Team of the Year Award goes to our team of Schools Liaison Officers (SLOs) who lead our proactive engagement with primary and secondary-level pupils to deliver effective early intervention and prevention content.
They complement a large network of partnership working and use their policing expertise, as well as trauma-informed practice, to assist in problem-solving approaches, helping complexly traumatised young people.
Working with partners they have delivered sustained education and harm reduction to young people who have been drawn into substance use. They’ve also played a key role in the partnership's creation of the Drink Drug Hub, a website offering advice, guidance and accurate information about alcohol and other drugs.
Their collaboration with author Christina Gabbitas, has embedded vital early years education about County Lines drug dealing and associated risks and was specifically highlighted in the force's 2022 HMICFRS Inspection.
They’ve seen tangible benefits for the young people that they work with including a low reoffending rate in relation to knife carrying, a reduction of 45 percent in youth custody admissions for possessing drugs, and referrals to the Youth Offending Panel reduced by a staggering 80 percent.
They also continue to deliver safety and good citizenship scenarios to 10,000 Year six primary school children through Crucial Crew.
Volunteer of the Year
This year’s Volunteer of the Year is Mike Bielby, who has volunteered for NYP for an incredible 27 years. Over the years Mike has assisted with Rural Watch, Community Speed Watch, Micro-volunteering, Neighbourhood Support, and been a Professional Standards Assistant, Role Player, Tape & Information Facilitator and Volunteer Forum Coordinator.
The contribution that volunteers make to the police service is staggering. They give their personal time, increase the capacity of the force and bring vital skills. Mike's contribution ensures we can connect policing to communities, building vital links. He is diligent in keeping himself knowledgeable and up to date and attends every training session.
He is a true inspiration to other volunteers beyond his own area. He is always happy, friendly and willing to help. He has earned the deep-rooted respect of his policing colleagues and fellow volunteers. Every force needs a Mike Bielby, we are just lucky he has chosen North Yorkshire Police to be his second home for the past 27 years.
Police Staff member of the Year
Peta Ducker is responsible for the delivery of all events and ceremonies and is based within our Executive Support team. She truly encompasses and understands the values of the organisation and strives to always deliver an exemplary service. She always goes above and beyond, thinking of all the little special touches that no one else thinks of, to really stand out and show people they are respected and valued.
This year Peta was tasked with two particular pieces of work to ensure everyone feels valued. Peta researched and delivered a memorial ceremony to recognise our police dogs as colleagues. She also delivered a project to ensure that a Police Staff were finally awarded a commemorative coin and pin badge to recognise their long service following a suggestion by a member of our front counter team.
In essence, you can teach someone how to do a job, but you can't teach them to care. We have received so much positive feedback about Peta - everyone she comes across gets the same impeccable Peta service.
Unsung Hero of the Year Award
This year’s Unsung Hero is PC Gemma Churchward. Gemma is an inspiration to all who meet and know her. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis nearly a decade ago, and rather than accepting the diagnosis and being limited by it, she was galvanised into action. She took up running and has participated in multiple long-distance running events, raising many thousands of pounds for charity along the way. She's a fantastic example of positivity, whose modesty and dedication permeate her everyday activities.
Gemma has recently been diagnosed with cancer, and although surgery did limit her running and charity efforts, in between chemo sessions, she's been running and walking as much as she can. She believes this is perfectly ordinary, but the inspiration this gives her team is exceptional. Gemma's dedication to work and charity inspired her supervisors to walk a marathon distance for Macmillan.
She inspires all those around her by her dogged determination to live to the fullest, and support those around her.
Aside from post-operative recovery, Gemma consistently works to an incredibly high standard. She embodies the tenacity, courage, and dedication to duty that only a true unsung hero can have. She's painfully modest but pushes herself to fundraise for charity and to prove to all those around her that nothing can limit life. Her colleagues say it is a privilege to know and work alongside Gemma.
Police Officer of the Year
PC Savannah (Sav) Knighton is our Police Officer of the Year. She has been a police officer for
four years and is described as “an exceptional role model and ambassador for North Yorkshire Police.”
Sav has served as a proactive officer on the force’s Operation Expedite Team, based in Harrogate but also working across Craven, Hambleton and Richmondshire.
She has worked extremely hard to tackle serious organised crime groups and works closely with key partners to safeguard vulnerable people, building up good working relationships with the most vulnerable members of our communities. Her energy and motivation are infectious and she has been key in supporting new members of the team in their development.
Sav’s personal performance is exceptional. Not only has she arrested numerous individuals linked to organised criminality, but she has also supported the intelligence development linked to organised criminal groups. Her productivity in terms of intelligence gathering and making referrals stands out and she has taken ownership of some serious and complex investigations into organised criminality and has managed a number of human trafficking investigations.
Lifetime Achievement – Police Staff
Christine Jones is NYP’s Police National Computer (PNC) & Police National Database (PND) Manager and has worked for NYP for 36 years. Christine’s entire careers has been spent in this high-risk area of business that requires specialist knowledge. She has contributed to keeping people safe by ensuring that high quality data is available to operational staff.
Christine was pivotal in overseeing the fundamental and important national changes necessary as result of the Bichard Enquiry recommendations, which was a time of intense focus and scrutiny on UK Policing PNC Services following the murder of children Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells in 2002. This resulted in significant technical and business changes to how PNC records were populated and maintained. Christine used her strong leadership skills to navigate this complex area with great skill, advising others in the force expertly, which she has continued to do throughout her career.
She has overseen many legislative requirements and changes over the years and developed policy and procedures that has ensured NYP meets it legal statutory performance targets and obligations.
More recently she was overseeing the national programme that will transition forces from a 40-year-old PNC system to a new product. NYP was a pioneer force and this put NYP at the forefront of these early transformational developments, receiving much praise nationally.
Christine has been an inspiration and true protective force for the organisation and the public during her long and exemplary career.
This year’s Bravery Award was presented to Police Constables Dave Burgess, Joanne Ollerenshaw and a third colleague, based at Skipton on Craven Response Team.
In August 2022, Dave, Joanne and their colleague were dispatched to a report of a man with a knife.
On arrival, they found extremely violent and aggressive man and despite discharging a Taser twice, they had no effect on the man’s behaviour, and he continued his onslaught of extreme violence towards the officers for a sustained period of time.
At times during the night, the officers did not know whether or not they would survive but, despite this, they showed outstanding courage and resilience, keeping other members of the public and ambulance staff safe from harm.
Backup was eventually provided by West Yorkshire Police, and officers were able to restrain the male safely and get him the medical attention he desperately needed.
Speaking about his experience Dave said: “As police officers we just go from job to job and get on with it. It's what we do. But there are jobs like this that make you stop and think. This incident was very close to becoming one with a different outcome. I am truly thankful that all three of us are here to tell the tale.”
The officers showed the utmost professionalism and bravery throughout what was one of the worst assaults on officers in recent years. They acted selflessly and heroically in the face of extreme violence.
Student Police Officer of the Year
Elizabeth Parry has won our Student Police Officer of the Year Award. She is described as an outstanding officer who completes work way beyond her level of service and is kind and considerate in everything she does.
Her work is produced to an exceptional standard, she takes ownership to ensure things get done, regularly working beyond her allocated shift. She ensures that her victims of crime are updated regularly realising how important this contact is.
Her crime reports are completed to an exceptional standard and provide an excellent level of detail. She really encapsulates the passion of policing to make things better for people. Her work ethic is second to none and she displays absolute integrity in everything she does. On top of all this, she completes all of her student assignments independently and on time!
Read all about the winners of the North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service awards here