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An Avon and Somerset police officer has been shortlisted for a top national family liaison officer award.
Brake’s “Outstanding Officer Achievement Award” recognises the excellent work that police family liaison officers do – but often goes unrecognised.
It is the top accolade at the Brake Family Liaison Awards event, being held at the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday (3 July).
PC Lou Phipps, a family liaison officer and member of the road policing unit based at Bridgwater’s Express Park, has been shortlisted for the prestige award. Her nomination follows her involvement with the Potts family, after Matt Potts was killed following a fail-to-stop incident in Bristol in 2009.
However the professional relationship that developed was strong enough that Wendy Potts (Matt’s mother), felt empowered to make contact with Lou, after a number of years.
Wendy and her friends wanted to show solidarity and empathy towards the families of those that were killed in the Manchester Arena attack in 2017 and turned to Lou for help.
Matt Potts had been out celebrating getting a new job, when on 4 December 2009 at 3am, he was crossing on Coronation Road between Gaol Ferry Bridge and Dean Lane when a speeding car was in collision with him, which then failed to stop at the scene. Matt was taken to hospital with a significant head injury but his serious condition deteriorated and he sadly died on 9 December.
PC Lou Phillips became the FLO for the Potts family on the day that the fail-to-stop incident happened.
Although her involvement with the family formally ended following the court case, she maintained infrequent professional contact with them and was always available to take a call from Wendy “night or day.”
On 14 November 2017 Lou was contacted by Wendy Potts to ask how she could contact any of the FLOs working with families of victims of the Manchester Arena bombing that occurred earlier that year.
Wendy was a member of a group of mothers who had lost children through various circumstances and had been busily knitting squares that were then put together to make ‘mourning blankets’.
The group’s hope was that they could be given to each of the families to show that each was knitted with love by a grieving mother that knew what they were going through, although they were unsure how to best make contact formally and correctly with those grieving families.
On the group’s behalf, Lou made contact with Greater Manchester Police and a conversation was begun. After a lot of telephone calls and emails a date was set where Wendy could deliver the blankets with another mother.
Lou said: “I am very honoured and totally embarrassed, to have been nominated for this award – I’m not quite sure they’ve got the right person!
“I know that there are other FLOs working with Avon and Somerset that do exactly the same as me and are equally deserving. I was just doing my job like all of us do,” she said.
Lou’s supervisor Sgt Andy Parsons, the force’s family liaison co-ordinator, who nominated his colleague, said: “I’m very pleased that Lou has been shortlisted for this prestigious award. It is richly deserved and she is a worthy recipient.
“Formal recognition of the excellent work that our family liaison officers do, sometimes goes unnoticed and this is an opportunity to highlight that work,” said PS Parsons.
Chief Constable Andy Marsh, said: “The work Louise has done with Wendy Potts and her family following the tragic death of her son Matt is just one example of the many bereaved families that Lou has supported in her role as a family liaison officer.
“She demonstrated the true value of caring and went above and beyond to make this awful situation just that little bit easier for the whole family, not just following the accident but for years after.
“I know that Matt’s mother Wendy will share my pride in seeing Louise being shortlisted for this award. She is an inspiration not only to her fellow liaison officers but to us all.
“Family liaison officers up and down the country volunteer for this very difficult role and dedicate themselves to help families in their darkest hours. I recognise the emotional burden that this often puts on them. I’d like to say well done and I thank them all for their work,” said the chief constable.
Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens, said: “Lou went the extra mile to support Wendy Potts following the tragic loss of her son Matt and she made a real difference to the family after the awful accident.
“Family liaison officers have one of the most difficult roles, supporting families and friends in times of turmoil. Lou believes that she was just doing her job but she went above and beyond what is expected of her and that is why she is worthy recipient for this award,” she said.
The award will be announced at a special event which is being held at the Houses of Parliament’s Commons Thames Pavilion on July 3.