The winners list: Merseyside Police ‘Community First Awards’

The annual Merseyside Police ‘Community First Awards’ took place yesterday, recognising police officers, staff, volunteers and community partners for their dedication, bravery and professionalism.

The ceremony, which was postponed in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, was able to go ahead in a Covid-secure setting at Merseyside Police Headquarters, Canning Place. This is the fourth year that the awards have been held and 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.

The awards were presented by Chief Constable Andy Cooke QPM and Police and Crime Commissioner, The Right Honourable Jane Kennedy.  

Speaking after the awards, Chief Constable Andy Cooke said, “As Chief Constable of this force I see examples of outstanding bravery, professionalism and exceptional work on a daily basis and I am immensely proud to have been able to present these awards today.  

“I would like to congratulate, and thank, all the winners and nominees who have received awards today as they are the reason Merseyside Police has been recognised as the best Metropolitan Force for the last four years. The people awarded today, along with colleagues across the force go above and beyond every day and that is because they are dedicated public servants who strive to keep our communities safe.

 “Today we heard 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.

“I have been 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”.

Outgoing Chief Constable, Andy Cooke, QPM

Merseyside Police ‘Community First Awards’ winners were:

Chief Constable’s Award

This year, the Chief has selected two winners for his award, both of whom have played an integral part in supporting him in running the force efficiently and effectively.

The Right Honourable Jane Kennedy – Jane made history by becoming the first Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside in November 2012 and was re-elected in 2016. In that time Jane has worked with two Chief Constables, Sir Jon Murphy and Andy Cooke, and throughout she has been supportive, but also challenging when necessary.

 Jane has been the driving force behind the successful estates strategy, which has brought Merseyside Police into the 21st century with buildings and facilities fit for policing in the 21st century.

 Later this year the new HQ, Rose Hill, will open its doors to staff and the public and it will proudly overlook the city of Liverpool, this wouldn’t have been possible without Jane and her team.

For the last four years Merseyside Police has been the best performing Metropolitan force in the country and Jane has played a major role in helping us to get there.

Hazel Fothergill – Hazel has worked for four Chief Constables in the time since she started at Merseyside Police. She has managed the National Crime Portfolios for both Andy Cooke and Sir Jon Murphy on top of her day job and that is no mean feat. This involves organising 43 Chief Constables, getting them together, and making sure they complete their actions. This is all done in her own inimitable style.

Hazel has high standards and deals with everything with great alacrity. She is highly respected across Merseyside and nationally for her professionalism and commitment. Nothing’s too much trouble for Hazel.

The Chief Constable credits Hazel with keeping him organised and helping him immensely over the last five years and feels it’s only right that she receives this award in recognition of all her hard work.

Police & Crime Commissioner’s Award

Reverend Peter W. Beaman MBE is the PCC’s Community First Award nomination for his service as a volunteer for Merseyside’s Independent Custody Visiting (ICV) scheme.

Peter has chaired the Merseyside ICV scheme since its inception in 1984, which equates to almost four decades of service. He organises volunteers to visit police custody suites in Merseyside and ensure that detainees are being treated lawfully and with care and dignity by the police whilst in custody.

Peter has pioneered many changes which have improved custody procedures including:

  • Availability of water in all custody suites
  • Replacing wool blankets with safety blankets to prevent detainees from self-harming
  • Development of a Religious Observance Procedure which informs the storing and handling of religious texts within police custody
  • Teaming up with the charity ‘Give a Book’ to ensure that books are available in all custody suites

Peter is dedicated to giving back to his local community. He has been involved in many aspects of community life including education, health and hospital chaplaincy. He has served on the Board of Visitors of HMP Liverpool, HM Thorn Cross Youth Offenders Institution and HMP Altcourse.

Peter was honoured in the Queen’s birthday honours list in 2008 with an MBE for voluntary service to the Merseyside community. This is a testament to the commitment and dedication he shows in all aspects of his voluntary work.

The PCC is delighted to honour Peter’s tremendous contribution to Independent Custody Visiting as a Visitor, Advisor and Chair.

Diversity Award

Annie Bhullar

Annie has been credited with supporting inclusivity and helping her colleagues in Liverpool Targeted Team Syndicate 1 to understand diversity issues and their impact on policing.

She willingly talks about matters often personal to her and encourages understanding and awareness within her team about the impact of mental illness, exploitation and other vulnerabilities that lead people to commit offences.

Her caring nature means she’ll go out of her way to help people in need and provide them with tailored support. After she spotted a Vietnamese man sleeping outside Edge Lane Police Station, she spoke to him and despite a language barrier, discovered that he had been trafficked into Liverpool via the port. She told the relevant departments and took care of his immediate welfare by supplying him with food—at her own expense—and warm, clean clothing.

She followed this up by creating a ‘care box’ that colleagues can use to help people in similar circumstances, providing items including clothing, food, toiletries and books.

Innovation Award

Tony Lorenzelli

In October 2019, Tony attended reports of a woman in crisis at the waterfront in Liverpool. The woman was saved, but it took some time for emergency services to locate her.

Tony knew that it can often be difficult to pinpoint the location along the River Mersey when such reports are received and this got him thinking. He devised a new system of signage to help officers and other support services find those in danger more quickly.

He researched his idea, linking up with Merseyside Water Safety Forum, as well as charities, including the Canal and River Trust before eventually securing full funding for the scheme from the Joint Agency Group. The signs, which were launched in January 2021, each feature a unique number, which provides emergency services with a location of an incident, dramatically reducing response times. In addition to this, the signs include a phone number for the Samaritans who can offer immediate advice to people at a time of need.

This simple but effective idea could mean the difference between life and death.

Police Officer of the Year Award

Ben Gilbertson

Constable Ben Gilbertson’s proactivity, work-rate, commitment and drive set him apart from others and he regularly receives positive feedback from across the organisation for outstanding work.

In June 2019, he was first at the scene for the Bala O’Rourke murder and initiated potentially life-saving first aid, while providing clear updates and adhering to Golden Hour principles. His efforts were later recognised with a Chief Constable Commendation.

In the 12 months following July 2019, Ben made 141 arrests, conducted 415 stop searches, submitted 160 intelligence reports and successfully obtained numerous self-generated search warrants. In addition to this, he was deployed to 140 incidents and completed 88 hours’ worth of Constant Observations.

He has identified significant emerging issues relating to a specific organised crime group and reacted to community intelligence to devise a successful operation tackling drugs in Belle Vale and Netherley.

Ben is described as having ‘strong relationships with other departments and his tenacity, dedication and work ethic are second to none. He goes above and beyond for his team to help others’.

Employee of the Year Award

Saima Ashraf

Saima works as a Senior Auditor. She’s the only registered blind Chartered Accountant in the UK and for the last 15 years, the only blind auditor.

Having lost her sight when she was a teenager, she mentors others who have also lost their sight. Her goal is to inspire and help to make them independent and successful.

Saima is involved in many activities within the community. She is a Governor of St. Vincent’s in West Derby, a specialist school for visually impaired children and also presents a current affairs radio show on Pendle Community Radio, discussing topics affecting British Asians and championing local organisations.

In February 2020, she was asked to represent the force at an event to showcase to employers across Merseyside how visually impaired people can carve a successful career when given the support and adjustments needed. She was also recognised by One Voice Blackburn when she won their Outstanding Achievement Award 2020, in recognition of the work she does for the communities in Blackburn.

Volunteer of the Year Award

Shaun Rooney

Shaun has been a Special for four years and in the last year alone, he has supported the force and the communities of Merseyside by working more than 900 hours in his Specials role.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Shaun negotiated his abstraction from his day job as a Business Analyst with the force and led efforts to secure additional support from the Specials that amounted to the equivalent of 35 Regular officers.

Responding to force intelligence, Shaun identified a specific requirement around providing high visibility patrols to business premises that had been left vulnerable due to their closure during the lockdown. During the initial three months of lockdown, he was able to deploy a proactive team every night to provide patrols at retail and business parks across Merseyside. As a result, the opportunity for criminals to exploit lockdown and commit commercial burglaries were successfully mitigated by these patrols.

Sean is the epitome of the ‘One Team’ ethos and has been described as someone who ‘responds to calls for assistance no matter what time of day or night’.

Team of the Year Award

Level 1 Central Investigations

The Level 1 Central Investigations team consistently achieves good results and in 12 months, the team processed 6,653 crimes, attaining a positive outcome rate of 19.2%. This is an outstanding achievement in a city as vibrant and busy as Liverpool. Engaging with victims that are not always cooperative or require extra reassurance and support, particularly in a transient population, requires hard work and determination. The team sets out to achieve this every day and provides a quality service to the community.

Work within the department is demanding and requires exceptional commitment and resilience. They have been described as being ‘at the heart of the Investigations strand’ and strive to reduce crimes in their area. Just under half of the reduction of crime in Level 1 has been achieved by L1 Central ‘due to the hard work, commitment and supervisory oversight within the team, along with a shared desire to make significant achievements’.

The officers fully embody the One Team ethos and consistently adopt a Community First attitude in that they always put the victim first.

Leadership Award

Carl Lynch

Sergeant Carl Lynch’s acts of kindness and generosity demonstrate a shining example of leadership in the way he manages his team, especially through their personal struggles, and how he engages with the community.

He is described as ‘an exceptional leader and the bedrock of what a Sergeant should be—honest, dependable, professional, caring and thorough’.

As well as developing staff at Tuebrook and offering guidance to the new Temporary Sergeants, he offers extensive support to his team.

Carl regularly engages with partners and the community. He has strong bonds with Alder Hey Hospital and this gained national attention after he arranged a Christmas surprise for a sick three-year-old police fan. He facilitates the children’s annual Christmas presents collection and arranges for colleagues to dress up as Father Christmas and elves for their grotto.

Carl also works with the local Guide Dogs charity to raise awareness of crimes against visually impaired members of the community. This goes a long way to show how the police support those members of our community that are the most vulnerable.

Partnership Award – JOINT WINNERS

John Hughes — Liverpool Pub Watch

John Hughes is the chair of Liverpool Pub Watch. He worked in the bar trade in the city centre for more than 35 years before retiring and his consistent contribution towards making Liverpool safer is outstanding.

Over the last three years, John has worked hard at strengthening the relationship between the police and the licensing trade in Liverpool city centre. His efforts to develop the Pub Watch scheme have resulted in well-attended meetings by representatives from partners and guest speakers who provide valuable insight for those working in Liverpool’s Night Time Economy (NTE).

John makes himself available to support Merseyside Police and his experience of the NTE is invaluable. He is always happy to help, whether it be assisting with operations or acting as a go-between for the local community policing team and members of the NTE.

John has, without doubt, contributed towards making Liverpool a safer city and ensured that it retains its coveted Purple Flag status—a positive initiative that indicates an entertaining, diverse, safe and enjoyable night out.

Knowsley Council — Crime and Communities Team

Knowsley’s Crime and Communities team was launched in September 2019 in direct response to residents’ concerns about anti-social behaviour and crime in the borough.

The key role of the team is to build relationships with residents and partners including Merseyside Police, Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service and local housing associations, giving residents the confidence to trust in the team’s commitment and ability to tackle criminal and anti-social behaviour.

The team are already making a huge difference in the borough. So far, this partnership work has included securing property closures linked to serious and organised crime, investing in CCTV in crime hotspots, safeguarding vulnerable people at risk of criminal exploitation and building relationships with residents in the community, visiting more than 2,300 homes to date.

The team has also managed to gather vital community intelligence, which has resulted in the execution of multiple warrants and the recovery of large quantities of illegal drugs and cash, as well as several arrests. These successes continue every week and the operation continues to grow.

Problem Solving

Colin Graham

Detective Constable Colin Graham has been nominated for his commitment to protecting victims of cybercrime from cryptocurrency and sextortion scams.

Sextortion is a form of blackmail, where an email is sent to a victim threatening to expose the victim’s sexual activity to family and friends unless a payment is made. The criminal then directs the victim to pay via cryptocurrency in an attempt to obscure the offender’s identity—this also makes it challenging to investigate.

Colin partnered with cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase so that when a known ‘bad’ cryptocurrency address is linked to sextortion, law enforcement can work with the exchange to curb any financial gain for the criminals. Before Colin’s intervention, Coinbase had no direct link with law enforcement, but it is now keen to improve its processes to protect vulnerable victims from this type of crime.

Colin’s idea continues to evolve but it will almost certainly safeguard some of the most very vulnerable victims not only in Merseyside but the whole of the UK and potentially worldwide.

Career Achievement Award

Viv Hartnett

Viv’s career with Merseyside Police has spanned 47 years. During that time, her tireless dedication to public service has epitomised the very notion of Community First.

Beginning her career as a constable in 1973, Viv worked in uniform and plainclothes roles; rising to the rank of inspector with over a decade of experience in the Traffic Department, before completing her service as a police officer in 2009. Without delay, Viv then began a new chapter with the force, heading up the Coroner’s Department until her retirement in 2020.

Three decades of policing experience are woven into Viv’s leadership skills and this proved invaluable during her time in the Coroner’s Department. The work of this department is challenging and Viv steered it through times of enormous change including the introduction of new processes and software, the amalgamation of jurisdictions and most recently, the rapid increase in deaths due to the coronavirus pandemic. Throughout this, Viv has supported her colleagues and inspired them to deliver the best service possible to the communities of Merseyside.

Bravery Award

Andrew Houghton and Mark Grabe

In July 2020, Constables Andrew Houghton and Mark Grabe were working on Operation Overlord, targeting county lines on the Wirral rail network.

They were at one end of the platform in Bebington train station with a male under arrest for possession of a knife when they heard shouting from the other end of the platform and saw a teenage girl walking along the tracks towards an oncoming train.

The officers acted quickly and managed to pull the girl away from the railway line but she was struggling violently, trying to jump towards the train and push them towards the tracks.

The assistance of additional officers was needed to help prevent the girl from causing injury to herself or others. All officers were thanked by rail staff and the public for their professional conduct and swift response.

Constables Houghton and Gabe acted quickly and decisively to prevent a tragic event. The bravery they displayed is outstanding, putting themselves at risk to save the life of a vulnerable girl intent on harming herself.

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