Police Federation



A courageous officer who skilfully talked down a gunman experiencing a mental health crisis has been nominated for the National Police Bravery Awards 2023.

On 19 March 2022 Sergeant Thomas Thornton and a young PC he was tutoring attended a call at an address in Milton Keynes, where on arrival they were confronted by an armed man who threatened to shoot both officers.

It was impossible at this moment to determine whether the firearm was real or imitation.

PS Thornton instructed his colleague to take cover behind a nearby vehicle whilst he engaged with the individual.

It was quickly apparent the individual was suffering a mental health crisis, but with no Armed Response Units in the area, PS Thornton was the only experienced officer on scene.

Despite the threats to shoot, PS Thornton stayed focused on the individual and remained calm and in control demonstrating great bravery and skill in talking the individual down who ultimately dropped his weapon. PS Thornton was able to then arrest and control the suspect.

It was only once firearms officers were on scene that it was established to be an imitation firearm. PS Thornton had no idea of this in the heat of the moment.

PS Thornton’s swift actions and concern for his colleague’s safety kept the situation calm and brought a quick resolution to a situation that could have escalated dramatically.

Thames Valley Police Federation Chair Craig O’Leary said: “Tom’s conduct throughout this incident is an excellent example of policing principles – showing fairness, integrity, leadership, respect and selflessness. And no shortage of courage.

“As far as Tom knew, this man was brandishing a live weapon and had the potential to use it. His brave actions clearly prevented the situation from escalating. We are so proud of him.”

PS Thornton said: “It all happened so quickly. I was in shock, because I thought the incident I was attending was very minor, and then within 30 seconds I was being held at gunpoint. I’m quite a calm person, and certainly in this scenario it worked out that no one was hurt, everyone was safe.

“Thankfully, the firearm wasn’t viable, but at the time my fiancée was heavily pregnant with our first child and the incident affected me a bit afterwards.”

Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, Jason Hogg, said: "Tom’s response to this incident is a shining example of the courage and leadership that we are proud of at Thames Valley Police. There was no way of him knowing if he was being faced with a viable firearm or not, however his selfless actions, quick thinking and determination ensured that all involved were kept safe.

“Our officers and staff go to great lengths to protect our communities; serving victims and fighting crime. We are grateful to the Police Federation for this opportunity to celebrate and show pride in our officers, who go about their duties with so many acts of bravery and courageousness every day."

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