A LONG-serving Middlesbrough police community support officer (PCSO) has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in recognition of her services to the local community.

PCSO Debbie McClelland from Middlesbrough Neighbourhood Policing Team joined the Force in 2003 and was part of one of the first PCSO cohorts for Cleveland Police.

Her patch is Newport - formerly the Gresham ward and encompassing this area - and she has worked in this part of Middlesbrough for all of her service.

She is being awarded the BEM in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List and will be able to use the post-nominal letters BEM.

Cleveland Police’s Chief Constable Richard Lewis said: “I am very proud that Debbie’s work is being recognised in this way – our focus at Cleveland is nominating frontline staff who deliver services for prestigious awards, especially given their work in what has been a most difficult year.

“She represents the best of neighbourhood policing and I’m sure the people living and working in the area she polices will join me in congratulating her.

“During Debbie’s career she has won praise from victims and families she has supported, I know she is very humble about the work she does but this award is testament to the difference she makes as an individual – as well as within the dedicated Neighbourhood Policing Team.”

PCSO Debbie McClelland said: “I am absolutely delighted and I can’t actually believe it.

“Everything that we do in neighbourhood policing is as part of a team and I’m just playing my part and doing my job.

“I know it sounds cheesy, but I have the best job in the world and I am really proud to work for Cleveland Police and very humbled to receive this award on behalf of myself and neighbourhood policing.”

Debbie is a familiar face patrolling the streets of Gresham and is loved by many in her community.

She prides herself on speaking to as many people possible on her shifts and out on patrol people of all ages will wave and stop to talk to her.

In 2011 she was recognised as PCSO of the year in Cleveland and then nationally at the Jane’s Police Review 2011 Gala Awards.

The award recognised a letter from the Iman at a local mosque which said she’d learned basic Urdu and used ‘great respect’ in all her dealings with worshippers as well as support from business owners who said ‘people call into the shop and ask if Debbie is on duty’.

In 2012 she won a Middlesbrough District Commander’s Award for her work in the Gresham area, at the time her commendation said: “Examples of Debbie’s dedication to her ward include: buying stickers for the children in the community and rewarding them for good behaviour, visiting repeat victims and maintaining contact with them to offer reassurance.”

In 2013 she was again awarded PCSO of the year in the Cleveland Community Safety Awards – nominated by 247 people for the accolade.

She was particularly praised for her commitment to engagement with residents, including learning how to say ‘hello’ in a number of different languages.

In 2019 Debbie won a Cleveland Police silver Rose Award in the category of ‘Care and Compassion’ and a gold Rose Award in the category of ‘Equality and Diversity’.

In 2005 Debbie was the victim of a shocking incident when she asked two men in a BMW to move from a restricted area.

They became abusive and drove off, dragging her as she was trapped in the car door.

Fortunately, Debbie did not suffer life-threatening injuries but was unable to work for a number of weeks.

The driver was jailed for 12 months and the passenger ordered to carry out unpaid community work and pay £100 compensation and costs.

Debbie is passionate about the community she serves, including learning Romanian so she can speak to residents in their native language.

She keeps the most common phrases needed in Romanian in the back of her pocket notebook.

She is particularly enthusiastic about working with youngsters.

She said: “I always try to build up a good relationship with young children in my ward so they learn from an early age that the police are there to help and support them and they should never be afraid to turn to us for help.”

She’s known for organising or supporting football tournaments, mosaic projects to improve the look of alleys in the ward and community fun days.

Debbie’s huge personality is seen as one of her biggest assets, giving her the ability to engage with people who in many cases would have avoided interaction with police.