More than crimefighters
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Sergeant Rob Mackenzie, PC Josh Brady, Sergeant Stephen Gunshon with Chief Constable BJ Harrington
When our officers pass out after their initial training, they pledge to protect and serve the people of Essex. And they do so throughout their careers.
This means helping people, keeping them safe and catching criminals. The work they do every day to investigate crime and bring people to justice is more widely known than their work to help you and keep you safe.
Our Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington commends officers and members of the public who put themselves in harm’s way to protect people and to save lives. A Chief Constable’s Commendation is one of the highest honours he can bestow.
Recent commendations of police officers and members of the public who have carried out acts of bravery and saved lives have included:
Sergeant Rob Mackenzie, PC Josh Brady, Sergeant Stephen Gunshon and PC Michael Plakhtienko, who were commended for their bravery and quick-thinking actions which, undoubtedly, helped to save the life of a man suffering a mental health crisis.
On 18 July, last year, the quartet from Basildon Local Policing Team were deployed after a man rang police and told call-handlers he wanted Essex Police officers to shoot him. He also stated his ex-partner was at the address and that he was armed with a knife.
Rob, Josh, Stephen and Michael arrived at the scene and first ensured the woman was safe. The man had smashed up the flat and entered the loft, armed with a knife and scissors.
Josh and Michael engaged with the man to establish a rapport for around two hours. Meanwhile, Stephen was deployed with a Taser, as a contingency.
When Rob arrived at the scene, he visited each household in the block of flats, giving occupants a briefing and ensuring that the age and needs of each occupant was documented in case a quick evacuation was necessary. He also communicated developments to the Bronze Commander at the scene.
Despite Josh’s and Michael’s efforts, the man later became aggressive and smashed through roof tiles before appearing at the loft hatch, threatening to harm himself and then disappearing from view.
He refused to re-engage with them and then broke through a ceiling in another room as he attempted to harm himself. Rob and Josh quickly located him and supported his weight from below, while Stephen and Michael gained entry to the loft, without a ladder, and managed to get the man to safety.
“It is a team effort. We were the four in the flat but we were supported by lots of colleagues outside and we wouldn’t have been able to get the job done without them. Fortunately, we were in the right place at the right time and we acted upon our instincts. As soon as his feet went through the ceiling, we went straight up into the loft and managed to save his life.
“The most impressive thing is that Josh and Michael were on their tutorship, only a few weeks into their policing careers but, as soon as we needed them to step up, they stepped up.”
Sergeant Rob Mackenzie
Josh and Michael joined Essex Police at the same time and had passed out from Essex Police College together just five weeks before the incident happened.
“Nothing ever prepares you for such things but this is what we signed up to do. It’s being in the right place at the right time and doing what you love.”
PC Josh Brady
“All I thought about was to keep talking to the man – as long as he’s talking, he’s alright. Then when his feet came through the ceiling I just thought I had to get up into the loft.”
PC Michael Plakhtienko
“It’s nice to be recognised for the work you do but it’s a team effort. The first thing we signed up to do in this job is to protect people and we just wanted to make sure the man was safe.”
Sergeant Stephen Gunshon
PC Joe Young, PC Kim Webb and PC Paul Miller, of Chelmsford Local Policing Team, were commended for their teamwork, decision-making and resilience which undoubtedly saved a man’s life.
In July 2020, Essex Police received reports that a young man had been seriously stabbed in a Chelmsford park. He had sustained multiple stab wounds which were life-threatening.
Joe was the first officer to arrive, followed closely by Kim and Paul. Joe undertook an initial assessment and identified the most serious injuries, applying direct pressure to the wounds and using only his gloved hands to stem the heavy bleeding. A paramedic later said his actions had prevented the man from bleeding to death at the scene.
Kim got first-aid equipment out of her car and helped Joe in administering emergency medical aid. She kept the victim engaged and tried to obtain vital information before he lost consciousness.
Paul’s advanced knowledge of first aid and trauma medicine meant he undertook a full ‘top to toe’ survey of the victim. He and Kim cut off the man’s clothing to ensure all his injuries were identified and treated, including one under his armpit which had penetrated his chest cavity.
“You just do what you can with what you’ve got. I am first aid trained and I have given first aid before but never to that extent, stemming such heavy bleeds before Kim brought the first aid kit over. I just managed with what I had which was two pairs of latex gloves – one which I plugged the wounds with and the other pair for my hands.
“Your adrenaline kicks in and you zone out everything else, other than the threat assessment. You just get on with it and do the best you can in the circumstances and, hopefully, that’s enough.
“You just go to help people, really. That’s what everyone does the job for.”
PC Joe Young
“You have got to get stuck in, what else can you do? I was concerned about the wound under the man’s armpit, in case it had punctured his lung, causing a build-up of pressure and affecting his heart.
“It was a case of getting our gloves on and stopping him from bleeding and then passing information to the paramedics when they arrived. I do have extra first aid knowledge but without diagnostic and medical equipment, you are limited as to what you can do. We were told the man survived because of our intervention.
“It’s nice to be recognised but I think that any other police officer would have done the same. It’s our job.”
PC Paul Miller
PC Lewis Aleta receives his certificate from Chief Constable BJ Harrington
PC Lewis Aleta, of Stanway Roads Policing Unit, who was commended for his bravery and quick-thinking actions which undoubtedly saved a boy’s life.
On 15 June 2020, Lewis was carrying out plain-clothed Operation Servator patrols in Colchester with the Town Centre Team. In Castle Park, he spotted a teenage boy who was struggling to stay afloat in the deep River Colne.
With disregard for his own personal safety, Lewis jumped into the river and successfully rescued the boy. As a direct result of Lewis’s swift action, he did not require any further medical attention.
“I’d heard splashing in the river and noticed teenagers messing around in the water.
“But when the sound changed to shouting and panic, I looked over. I saw four young people in the water and two girls calling for help. Then one young lad went under and came up again and I just knew he was in trouble.
“One of the girls said he couldn’t swim. There were no throwing lines or buoyancy aids nearby so I called for back-up and then I didn’t think twice, just jumped over the railing and into the water. It was a lot deeper than I expected.
“I swam over to the lad and held him up, told him to roll on to his back and swam us both to the bank where colleagues were waiting to help get him out on to the bank.
“Thankfully, other than the shock of it all, the lad suffered no injuries and didn’t need any further medical attention.
“To receive a Chief Constable’s Commendation is an honour, especially when I feel I was just instinctively doing my job.”
PC Lewis Aleta
PC Taylor Nash with Chief Constable BJ Harrington
PC Taylor Nash and a member of the public, who were commended for their bravery and quick-thinking actions which, undoubtedly, saved the lives of others from a fire in Clacton.
On 8 May 2020, Taylor had just returned home from a night shift with Colchester Local Policing Team when he heard windows smashing. Looking out, he saw a neighbour’s semi-detached house ablaze, with fire pouring from the upper floor. Taylor knew there were three occupants living at the address, including a bedbound man.
Taylor entered the burning building and found another neighbour who had rushed to help. The man’s wife and daughter had managed to get into their garden on their own but the man was still in the house, near the back door. Together, Taylor and his neighbour grabbed the man to pull him to safety.
Amidst the flames and smoke, and with disregard for their personal safety, Taylor and his neighbour were able to carry the man into his back garden. Meanwhile, the neighbour’s partner alerted the residents in the adjoining house to get out in case the fire spread to their home.
However, the two men were still in danger as the garden was enclosed, the fire had spread and the building’s windows were exploding, showering them with hot, broken glass.
Taylor and his neighbour then removed fence panels so that the three of them could carry the man to safety so the ambulance crew could take him, his wife and daughter to hospital.
“At first I grabbed my warrant card, thinking someone had smashed some windows – I wasn’t expecting a fire. I saw flames bursting out of the front window of the top floor of the house and ran over to help.
“I saw my neighbour run across and I knew the situation with the family so I immediately went to do what I could. It was a very challenging situation, problem-solving under pressure but it is satisfying to know there was nothing more we could have done that day to help the family and they all got out alive, without being hurt.”
PC Taylor Nash
“Police officers instinctively want to help people and keep them safe – that is why they join the job in the first place. They are also highly trained so that, even when they are off duty, that training and those instincts kick in when they are faced with situations where someone’s life is in danger.
“People are alive and have got the help they needed, thanks to the actions of these officers.”
Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington
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