POLICE officers, staff and volunteers who have gone the extra mile have been honoured at a new awards ceremony.

The inaugural Durham Difference Awards were held at the Radisson Blu hotel, in Durham, on Monday night and recognised dedicated police work across County Durham and Darlington in a host of categories, including Police Officer of the Year, Outstanding Contribution and Team of the Year.

More than 50 nominations were received for the awards, which were presented by Superintendent Chris Curtis and Andy Jackson, chairman of the Durham Police Federation.

It was also attended by the Lord Lieutenant of County Durham Sue Snowdon and Chief Constable Mike Barton.

Opening the awards, Supt Curtis said: “This is a chance for us to recognise our extraordinary officers, staff and volunteers who regularly go the extra mile to serve and protect our communities.

“Acts of dedication, courage and bravery happen every day in the police service and the recipients of these awards will be the first to say they are just doing their job. But it is important that we bring these achievements to the forefront to recognise them and say thank you for the fantastic work they do.”

PC Albert Pitts, from Bishop Auckland response, took home the award for Outstanding Police Officer of the Year.

Having joined Durham Constabulary in 2016, PC Pitts has quickly established himself as a hardworking, reliable and trustworthy officer. Last year, he attended the fifth highest number of incidents in the force and had arrested more criminals than anyone else on his team, with more than 50 arrests, many of whom had been identified as the area’s most wanted criminals.

In his nomination, Inspector Neil Fuller said: “What impresses me most about Albert is he doesn’t just perform well in one area and ignore others – he has consistently performed to this high standard since he started and does so with a smile on his face and a spring in his step.”

PCSO Michelle Burr won the award for Outstanding Police Community Support Officer of the Year. Since joining the Peterlee Neighbourhood Team in 2017, PCSO Burr has worked tirelessly to help make the town a safer place to live and work.

As part of her role, she launched the Peterlee Young Heroes Awards, which celebrated the everyday heroes in the community, and helped to tackle antisocial behaviour by establishing the Peterlee Community Garden.

In his nomination, Chief Inspector Lee Blakelock, said: “When people mention those who go the extra mile, Michelle is testament to it. She really does blow me away with her outstanding achievements, her creativity and her dedication to public service.”

Karen Hewitt from the force’s Criminal Justice Unit was named Outstanding Police Staff Member of the Year, while Safer Homes volunteer Keith Whittaker won the Outstanding Volunteer category.

Another winner was Sergeant Gavin North, who took home the award for Outstanding Contribution for his work in training officers in mental health.

Sgt North has developed an aide memoire for all officers, which has been used by a number of other forces across the country, and delivers training packages to officers and supervisors in relation to mental health.

Stanley Neighbourhood Team’s work to improve their local community saw them win the award for Outstanding Team of the Year. Among their success stories is PACT House - a one stop shop for local people to access support, engage with their community and be empowered to make changes in their life without the need for police intervention.

They also run a youth session called PACTivate in which officers can engage with young people and help divert them away from crime and antisocial behaviour.

Paul Walters won the award for Special Constable of the Year. SC Walters joined Durham Special Constabulary around two years ago and volunteers on Darlington D Relief response team alongside his day job.

In his nomination, Sergeant Lee Hobson said: “Paul often steps out of the shoes of a special constable and into those of a regular officer. Paul does not support us – he works alongside us and is an essential part of the team.”

PCs Nick Downing and Paul Taylor accepted a certificate from Greater Manchester Police on behalf of the 108 Durham Constabulary officers who were sent to help Greater Manchester Police in the wake of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing.

Seventeen members of staff with a combined service of 680 years between them were also presented with long service commendations for 40 years’ service or more.

The awards were sponsored by Ron Hogg, Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner for County Durham and Darlington, Unison, Durham Police Federation and Durham Superintendents’ Association.