13 July 2017
Two West Midlands Police officers who tackled a gunman have been named as Region 3 (Midlands) winners at the 22nd National Police Bravery Awards.
The awards, sponsored by Police Mutual, honour and recognise police officers who perform outstanding acts of bravery.
That was certainly the case for PC James Neilson, who had a gun pressed into his chest, and PC Ryan Patel, who subsequently ran after the gunman into a hostile area, despite knowing the risks he faced.
The two were on night-time patrol in Birmingham on 20 August 2016 when they spotted masked men entering a nearby shop. As they arrived, the men were leaving the shop, and PC Neilson used his incapacitant spray on one of them, but it proved ineffective due to his balaclava.
The second man – who was holding a revolver – stumbled and fell, and PC Neilson attempted to restrain him. At one point during the struggle the gun was pointed barrel first into the officer’s chest, and although PC Neilson was able to disarm him and PC Patel struck him with his baton, the suspect was able to escape.
PC Patel followed the man into a nearby housing estate, an area known to be difficult for police and a warren of alleyways. Despite knowing there may be more weapons and the risk of being outnumbered if he did find the man, PC Patel continued his search, providing significant intelligence which later helped armed colleagues conduct a full search of the area.
The two officers were delighted to receive their award from Stephen Mann, CEO of Police Mutual.
PC James Neilson: “We’re really surprised to be here. When it happened we didn’t have time to be scared; it was just a question of dealing with stuff. But afterwards I thought that we could have been shot and killed – but you just have to get on with it.”
PC Ryan Patel said: “To be honest, I was sat in Bristol having a beer when I heard we’d been nominated. That was good enough, but now that we have won that is just the best thing ever!” He added that his mum and dad – who accompanied him to the awards – had always worried about his job, but the peril their son faced was really brought home to them after this incident. “Mum asked a lot of questions and Dad just sat there on the bed for about ten minutes saying nothing. He’s proud now of course, but I don’t think he was too chuffed at the time!”
Tom Cuddeford, Chair of West Midlands Police Federation said: “Despite unimaginable fear, PC Neilson fought with an armed man, and PC Patel put himself in a situation where he was alone and unarmed in order to try to catch a criminal. It is important to honour and recognise this kind of bravery and we should all be proud that these officers are part of the West Midlands force.”
Stephen Mann said: “Every nominee at this year’s awards has shown outstanding courage and thoroughly deserves to be recognised. Your continued bravery helps ensure that millions of people in our country are kept safe, which is perhaps more important than ever given recent events across the world. This is why we proudly continue to support this event.”
More information on our Bravery Awards