Two police officers seriously injured during an incident in Greenock have spoken for the first time about their ordeal after their outstanding bravery was recognised by colleagues.
Constables Laura Sayer and Kenneth MacKenzie were attacked after attending an address in the town in June to support colleagues from a partner agency.
The pair, along with seven fellow officers who assisted as the incident unfolded, received bravery awards from Chief Constable Iain Livingstone at a ceremony at the Scottish Police College.
In a joint statement, the injured officers said: “The incident which we and our colleagues faced on June 1 was extremely challenging and not something that we will easily ever forget.
“We did what all police officers are trained to do and can only thank our colleagues who put themselves in harm’s way to help prevent what could have been a far more serious incident.
“Despite the serious injuries we suffered, we both recognise that without the support of fellow officers that day it could have been much worse.
“The past few months have also been extremely challenging and we have a faced a long road to recovery which has, at times, been very difficult.
“We are very proud to be recognised with this bravery award and to share this moment with the colleagues who helped during the incident.
“Our recovery is going well and we hope to return to work in the near future. This would not have been possible without the support of Police Scotland and fellow officers.
“The hundreds of messages of support we received from the public have also been a huge comfort as we recover and we would like to thank everyone for their kind wishes.”
PC Sayer and PC MacKenzie were among 64 police officers, two special constables, one member of police staff and 14 members of the public honoured at the Police Scotland Bravery and Meritorious Conduct Awards today (Thursday 8 November).
The Chief Constable presented the awards at a ceremony at the Scottish Police College which was sponsored by Police Mutual and attended by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice Humza Yousaf and SPA chair Susan Deacon.
Among those who received commendations were: an officer who rescued an elderly couple from their house before it was engulfed by snow in the ‘Beast from the East’ storm; an officer who arrived at an incident where three people had already been stabbed and prevented the attacker from hurting more people; and a member of the public who rescued a driver from a burning vehicle.
Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: “The Police Scotland Bravery Awards provide us with an opportunity to pause, reflect and admire outstanding acts of bravery displayed by members of the public, police officers and staff who put the protection of others before their own safety.
“These selfless acts of care, courage and professionalism include many instances where immense courage was shown in helping people at their time of greatest need, actions that were often life changing for all involved.
“I am privileged to lead an organisation that serves the public with officers and staff who go above and beyond the call of duty every day, to ensure the safety and protection of others.”
Humza Yousaf, Cabinet Secretary for Justice, said: “To start each day without knowing the danger that may arise is not an experience faced by many. The police officers commended today are shining examples of officers who have gone far beyond the call of duty when faced with that risk.
“The members of the public here who have responded bravely to help fellow citizens are a further representation of the compassion found across Scotland.
“We are indebted to everyone who has received awards and, on behalf of the Scottish Government, I offer our heartfelt thanks.”
Susan Deacon, chair of Scottish Police Authority, said: “Our police service works tirelessly to keep the people of Scotland safe and I am constantly inspired and humbled by the courage and commitment shown by officers, staff and members of the public who go above and beyond to come to the aid of others. These acts of bravery represent the very best of public service and the very best of humanity and I am pleased that we have this opportunity to recognise and applaud each and every one of these exceptional people.”
Stephen Mann, of Police Mutual, said: “This year’s awards recognise some of the truly inspiring acts of courage by police officers, staff and members of the public, and everyone involved should be very proud of their achievements. You are a credit to your families and friends, your communities, and the police service.
“Your actions have demonstrated bravery beyond any expectation. It is because of your commitment to protecting others that each of you has earned the public’s appreciation and respect. Your determination and courage continue to inspire all of us and I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of myself and all of the colleagues at Police Mutual, to give you our sincere appreciation and to thank you for all that you do in helping keep us safe.”
AMONG THE OTHER BRAVERY AWARD RECIPIENTS WERE:
Sergeant David Rourke
In March 2018, it was widely reported how Storm Emma, also known as ‘Beast from the East’, affected the country with the large snow drifts and plummeting temperatures. A couple who live in a remote part of West Linton were trapped as their house was being buried in 12ft high snow drifts. Several local people had tried and failed to reach the house to offer assistance. Sergeant David Rourke managed to fight through the snow after a number of attempts and reached the couple who were becoming distressed. He identified a route for the Mountain Rescue Team and with their help the couple were safely rescued.
Sgt Rourke said: "It's a privilege to be nominated, but on the day I was just doing what I joined the police to do, assist people at their time of need. The elderly couple were trapped with 12 foot snow drifts, and even an attempt to get them out with a tractor had failed. They had no heating and were running out of supplies of medicine and the closest main road to the property, the A72, was completely closed for its entire length through the Scottish Borders.
"I had to abandon my 4x4 some distance away and make my way across fields. The house was literally being buried in the snow to the point at one end I was standing on the roof of the house. I dug down in to the front door, spoke to the occupants and whilst waiting on Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue I essentially created a snow path to help them get out safely.
"This was a challenging set of shifts for my team and is only one small example of the exemplary, selfless work that my team were involved in during this period. It also goes without saying that the volunteers of Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue provided us with invaluable assistance which played a major role in ensuring we were able to work effectively in keeping people safe during the worst weather conditions I have seen during my service."
Constable Adam Denny
In August 2017, Constable Adam Denny was patrolling in Auchterarder when he responded to a call of three people having been stabbed. Constable Denny was first on the scene and managed to find the victims, who all appeared to have been stabbed with a bladed weapon. Constable Denny identified the accused and engaged him in conversation. The man was being aggressive, shouting and threatening to assault Constable Denny. Unaware as to whether the man was still in possession of the weapon, Constable Denny remained between the man and the injured parties and ambulance crew. Aware that there were members of the public in the area, Constable Denny kept the man’s attention focused on him to prevent anyone else being targeted, until further assistance arrived and the man was apprehended.
Constable Adam Denny said "As a police officer you know it’s part of the job that you may find yourself in dynamic situations where people are behaving violently. That's when the training kicks in and you concentrate on making sure you're trying to keep everyone, including yourself and your colleagues safe and to make sure you calm the situation down as much as possible and apprehend the accused.
“We're all aware as police officers that we are likely to find ourselves in these types of situations but it is nice to be recognised for it. I'm sure that most of my colleagues would agree that we all feel it's just part of the job we do but yes it is good to be recognised by the organisation."
Result: The accused received a nine year sentence after pleading guilty at High Court in Glasgow.
In December 2017, a motor vehicle crash happened near Dalkeith whereby the vehicle came to rest on its side, trapping the driver inside. The engine bay was well alight and the driver was unable to escape. Shaun Carroll, a member of the public, arrived at the crash and on hearing the driver’s screams, bravely approached the burning vehicle to help. He found the courage and strength to push the vehicle over sufficiently to allow the driver to escape. He then administered first aid and contacted emergency services.
Shaun said: “It’s an honour to be nominated for a Bravery Award.
“When I saw the accident and then realised someone was trapped I knew I needed to move the burning car to allow the young lady to get out. I’m glad I was able to push the vehicle over and hold the weight to allow the driver to escape.”
Result: The driver was later released from hospital with minor cuts and bruises, thanks to Shaun’s brave actions.
Constable Alasdair Bell and PD Ted
In March 2018 during the extreme weather, a report was received of a vulnerable woman who was missing in East Lothian. A request was received for the services of a police dog handler and Constable Bell volunteered. After several hours of searching, a decision was made that outdoor searches could not continue due to the adverse weather conditions. Constable Bell and PD Ted continued to search for a further four hours before finding the woman unconscious in the snow. The woman had suffered from a cardiac arrest and hypothermia. Constable Bell performed CPR for 30 minutes until the arrival of paramedics.
Constable Alasdair Bell said: “Given the extreme weather conditions I knew it was imperative that the woman was found as quickly as possible. Ted and I continued to search and when we found the lady I managed to carry out CPR until the ambulance arrived. It’s an honour to receive this award today but what Ted and I did is really just part of the job.”
Result: The woman was taken to hospital, where she made a steady recovery.
Constable Scott Campbell and Constable Robert Gittins
In May 2018, a call was received regarding a vulnerable primary school aged boy in Alva, who had run off towards the Ochil Hills. The child was eventually found trapped in fast flowing water down a 50ft gorge, screaming for help. Constable Scott Campbell ascertained that by climbing 100ft upwards he could get better access to the terrain below. He made his way into the gorge, quickly followed by Constable Robert Gittins. PC Campbell reached the distressed boy who was cold, wet and partially clothed. He held on to the boy, warming him and keeping him from further danger. They were joined by PC Gittins who took over holding the boy and the officers gave him one of their dry tops. They climbed through treacherous conditions, carrying the child between them, to a safe area where the fire service and mountain rescue team could assist them to safety.
PC Gittens said: "The child was stranded down a 50 foot gorge screaming for help. Without hesitation I climbed down, he was my only real concern. The water was well above my waist and extremely cold, the child was hysterical and cold too. I held the child out of the water with PC Campbell and after around an hour we were joined by paramedics and fire crews who were able to winch down blankets, life jackets and glucose bars.
"Firefighters constructed a winch system which we used to first remove the extremely distressed child and then us. Thanks to our team efforts the child didn't require hospital treatment. For this incident I don't want to be credited as an individual who does police work. I want to be credited as a Police Constable of Police Scotland."
PC Campbell said: "I don't have a head for heights so I instinctively climbed down the 50 foot gorge, and after wading through freezing, fast flowing water found the child in his underwear at the top of a 20 foot waterfall. PC Gittens and I worked together to help get him to safety.
"I feel very honoured and proud to be receiving this award, it's nice to be recognised for the work we do."
Result: Due to the Constables keeping the boy out of the water and maintaining his body temperature, once the paramedics checked him over, he did not require to go to hospital.
Constable Neil Paterson and Constable Lee Cameron
In January 2017, in the early hours of the morning, a man was reported missing after having been on a night out in Edinburgh. Using sound investigative skills, Constables Paterson and Cameron carried out a detailed and extensive search on foot, in sub-zero temperatures. Later that morning they managed to locate the man in an alleyway, where he had fallen from a height of about 20 feet. The man had suffered significant injuries and the dogged determination of the officers undoubtedly prevented a worse outcome for him.
PC Cameron said: "Due to the significant injuries the missing man had suffered, and being found in an inaccessible place, he may not have survived the cold weather for another 24 hours.
“Being able to in essence save this man's life and locate him for his family makes both Neil and me extremely proud and I appreciate very much the recognition of receiving this award."