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Police bravery honoured at awards

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 31/07/2016

Danger is part of the job for thousands of New Zealand police and now five officers have been recognised for putting their own lives on the line for others.

Three officers have been awarded the New Zealand Bravery Medal while two dog handlers will receive the New Zealand Bravery Decoration for exceptional acts of bravery.

"Their bravery epitomises the high standards and the extent to which our people go in putting people, especially victims, at the centre of what we do," Police Commissioner Mike Bush said on Monday.

"The officers don't see themselves as heroes but they are to us, to their families, friends and to many in the wider community."

Five of 11 bravery awards this year go to police officers.

Waikato dog handler, Senior Constable Blair Spalding, was shot in the leg as he and Constable Ben Turner arrested a man armed with a sawn-off shotgun in August 2014.

"It was the type of incident that a lot of people would run away from, but as police, we are the ones that need to run towards the danger," Sen Const Spalding said.

Senior Constable Deane O'Connor now realises how lucky he was to survive after jumping into cold, dark water in Tauranga Harbour in August 2013 to save a man whose van had plummeted off a bridge.

He and the passenger, who survived, suffered hypothermia after recently retired Sen Const O'Connor spent 40 minutes towing him through the water to safety.

"It was only later that I learned the chances of surviving in cold water like that after 45 minutes are greatly reduced. I think to myself now `I got away with it'," he said.

Auckland officer Sergeant Chris McDowell, then a constable, came just inches from death in the incident that resulted in himself and colleague Sergeant Ryan Lilleby being recognised.

An armed man's knife was just centimetres from Sgt McDowell's neck when Sgt Lilleby was able to jump in and wrestle the man to the ground.

Sgt Lilleby thanked police trainers who gave officers the skills to prepare for these incidents.

The officers will be presented with their medals at a ceremony at Government House.

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