Teesside is known across the world for the quality of its products and chief amongst those is our steel. The iron ore mined in our hills has built the world. Our steel and engineers have created structures that include railway stations in Brazil, river crossings in Africa, Lambeth Bridge in London and most famously the harbour bridges in Auckland and Sydney.
Our history and our heritage is important; it shapes who we are and the characteristics of our communities. Just like steel, our communities are strong and adaptable. They, like our steel, have also been forged in the whitest of heat.
It’s important for any organisation to ensure that they are tightly bound with our communities. They have been there for us through some difficult times but the pride in Cleveland Police is returning; this is undeniable and it’s showing in our operational results.
I think understanding our place in the community and knowing its past makes us better at what we do and more sympathetic to the needs of local people.
This is why I’m founding a brand new and prestigious award.
You will know that the Victoria Cross is awarded for ‘valour in the presence of the enemy’ and the fact of its rarity makes it a special award that is respected throughout the world. It’s thought that the metal to make the medal was taken from Russian cannonballs used in the siege of Sevastopol.
I have asked Mayor Ben Houchen for some of the material used in the structure of the Redcar Blast Furnace to cast our own awards for Cleveland Police. The metal represents an important part of who we are as a community and I want to commemorate that in a special award.
Each year, I would propose a panel made up of our local elected leaders, community members, children and most importantly, a former Steel Worker are drawn together to select a worthy winner (two at the very most a year, perhaps) of our new award which is presented to a staff member or community member who has made a special contribution to the Cleveland area.
The fact that the award will be forged from the original material of the Blast Furnace binds it to our area and our proud history. It represents the essence of who we are as a community.
I would also like our local artists to submit designs for the award, our poets to submit a short line or two that would appear on the award, a local tradesperson to make the award and our community members to submit ideas for its name. This is a team effort.
I have asked Mayor Houchen for enough metal to make 200 or so awards which we would store here under lock and key. This will provide enough material for 100 years. The winner each year would be presented their award in a special ceremony.
This is a special part of the world and I promise that this will be a special and well regarded institution at the centre of our proud area. This award will highlight the very best of us.
Speaking of the very best of us and creative flair – this week we asked children across Teesside to get creative to mark Children’s Mental Health Week 2021.
Using the theme of the week – ‘Express Yourself’ – we invited youngsters to draw what they are looking forward to doing once lockdown restrictions have eased.
Myself and the Police and Crime Commissioner Lisa Oldroyd chose our favourite three, which you can view below – but it has to be said that every single entry was absolutely fantastic. You should all be very proud of your achievements.
Well done to Xander, George and Lily!
This is Teesside.
And as we say where I’m from:
Gorau chwarae, cyd chwarae / We are at our best when we work together.
Richard Lewis, Chief Constable.