Brave officers who detained a group of violent robbers armed with Rambo knives and a loaded firearm have won Thames Valley Police Federation Bravery Awards.

Back in November 2022, Sgt Thomas Neilson, PC Joe Swan and Sgt Chris Smith from the Milton Keynes South neighbourhood team, conducted a planned operation following a violent robbery that had occurred two days before.

The suspects had arrived in two vehicles, armed with machetes and knives, before carrying out the robbery.

Sgt Neilson deployed his team in both high-visibility reassurance patrols to engage with the local community, as well as a discreet approach, with PC Swan in plain clothes to act as a ‘spotter’.

Shortly after going on to the estate, PC Swan saw two vehicles, each containing four to five men matching the description of the robbery from two nights before.

PC Swan later said: “I’ve been in policing for 12 years, and you kind of get a nose for it. It was their behaviour – very furtive, almost like they were prowling.”

With support from Sgt Neilson and Sgt Smith, they stopped the lead vehicle and detained the occupants.

When they searched the vehicle and found a lock knife and a large sheathed ‘Rambo’ knife, along with a quantity of controlled drugs.

The occupants were all arrested on suspicion of robbery, possession with intent to supply, and possession of offensive weapons.

Once they’d taken the suspects into custody, the experienced team saw that one of the men was acting erratically and decided that he should have a more thorough search.

They conducted a strip search and the officers found a loaded firearm.

 It became clear that the previous incident was not an isolated robbery, and that a live gang feud had reignited.

The feud dated back to October 2019, when there was a double murder at a house party.  

The suspect with the weapon was charged and remanded to prison for trial.

He made an early guilty plea and was sentenced at Crown Court to five years in prison.

Sgt Neilson said: “It was a brilliant result for the team, a good bit of proper neighbourhood policing.

"You’ve got something that’s happened on your patch, you delve into it a little bit and then you start uncovering something really serious.

 “What they were planning two nights before was bad enough – they’d chased a victim with machetes and knives – and then to go back two days later armed with Rambo knives and also a firearm, God knows what they’d have done if they’d have caught whoever they were looking for.”

He added: “I was shocked when I was told we were winning an Award, but it’s a real honour and privilege, especially as it’s from the Federation, so it’s your peers.”

PC Swan said: “The custodial sentence was a real result – that man’s not going anywhere for quite a long time.

"That sends a really good message that Thames Valley Police and the courts are not going to tolerate people taking weapons out onto the street, because there is only one outcome for those people and that is they’ll be locked up.”

He added: “I was really made up when I heard about the award. It highlights the skills of proactive policing.

"That day, if we hadn’t been able to control those subjects as well as we did, we might have had a firearm pulled on us.

"It just goes to show the real dangers of policing the streets, and that you never know what’s around the corner.”

 Thames Valley Police Federation Chair Craig O’Leary said: “The intervention of this amazing neighbourhood team undoubtedly prevented significant violence, which could have led to death or serious injury.

 “Against a backdrop of five homicides in Milton Keynes in early 2022, the team’s relentless pursuit of disrupting and detecting those committing the highest harm to our communities is to be commended.

“Well done to Thomas, Chris and Joe.”

All the officers will attend the 2024 Thames Valley Police Federation Bravery Awards on Thursday April 25.  

At the event a winner will be announced who will travel to London for the National Police Federation Bravery Awards in July.

 The Thames Valley Police Federation Bravery Awards are in association with Flint House Police Rehabilitation.

Also sponsoring the Awards are Serve and Protect Credit Union, Metfriendly, No5 Chambers, The National Police Healthcare Scheme, No 1 Copperpot Credit Union, Hempsons, Uniform Mortgages, TVP Group Insurance Scheme, Police Mortgages, Police Mutual and Hilton.