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Two police officers have been recognised for their bravery earlier this year at the Police Commissioner Bravery Awards.
 
Senior Constable Dave Hodge and Constable Luke Briggs were nominated for the WA Police Cross for Bravery as well as the Australian Honour Bravery Medal.
 
Dave and Luke were presented their awards in March along with 39 other police officers recognised for their courage.
 
In June 2019, they were called to a landSAR (land search and rescue) for a missing 14-year-old girl who was known to police. The girl suffered from mental health illnesses and frequently ran away to dangerous areas.
 
“She’s a bit of an absconder and when she runs off, we go out to find her and bring her home,” Dave told Police News.
 
“The job started out as a bit of a land search as we looked in the areas we thought she might be. In past instances, she has gone towards bushland, when she has run away, and has done things like jump on train lines.”
 
Dave also remembers talking with the girl’s parents to establish any other locations she may be, or if she had written anything in her diary to give them clues to her whereabouts.
 
“When Luke and I were coming back from looking around Lesmurdie Falls, we thought we would check out the nearby Stratham Rock Quarry,” he said.
 
“The gate was locked but we started to walk in and look around. First we checked around the bottom of the rocks to make sure she hadn’t jumped or fallen and then we started hiking up towards to the top.
 
“We’ve walked up the trail to the top of the cliff face and that’s when we saw her, up the very top of the cliff, right on the edge.”
 
Dave said he remembers the very real threat that she could easily fall from the cliff given how close she was to the edge.
 
“It was then a case of us talking to her with no sudden movements as she was dangerously close to the edge,” he said.
 
“Every time we edged closer she would take a step back, even closer to the edge. If she fell, she would have been dead. She was in bare feet on a rock that has hanging over the cliff face.”
 
Dave said around the time of the incident, Perth was experiencing strong storms and wet weather.
 
He remembered being mindful she was barefoot, standing on a slippery rock, as the rain rolled in.
 
“One slip and she could have fallen to her death,” he said.
 
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Dave told Police News that at this point they had called in for TRG and negotiators to come to the scene as well as St John Ambulance.
 
“Other officers were now at the bottom of the cliff in case she was to fall,” he said.
 
“We jumped on the radio and told them we had found her and were talking with her to keep her calm. Every time I spoke with her I would try and edge forward but she would keep edging back, putting herself more and more in danger.
 
“I looked past her and saw where she was trying to climb to and she was running out of rock.”
 
Dave said while she was known to police and battled mental health illness, he believed she did not have the intention of jumping.
 
“She likes the bush and she likes the peace and quiet. She wasn’t saying she was going to jump but she was so close and could have easily slipped and fell,” he said.
 
“Eventually I got close enough to a spot on the rock where I just grabbed her and as I did, even though she probably only weighed 40kg, if I had lost my balance I would have gone off the edge with her. I sort of lifted her up and Luke helped me get her away from the edge. When I grabbed her, I made sure to lean back at the same time, to prevent both of us going over. Essentially I was trying to juggle both of our lives.”
 
He said when they were walking the girl down the trail she was resisting, swinging her hands around and trying to make a grab at the officers’ taser and firearms.
 
“The walk down was quite steep and she was kicking out at our legs and trying to trip us over. It was hard terrain to deal with that, but at least she was away from the edge,” he said.
 
“She really was out of her mind. It was sad to witness as she is so young.”
 
Dave said it was a job that he had never experienced before.
 
“It’s one of those things, we did what we could and we did our job and then it was all over and time to help someone else,” he said.
 
“Every day we deal and face people who do harm to others and themselves but this job was different especially being on a cliff with someone, knowing at any moment she could have fallen or I could have fallen.”
 
Dave said he was shocked when he found out about the nomination for the bravery award.
 
“I was very surprised. When you think of bravery awards you think of people like the officer who got his head split open with a samurai sword and officers who perform amazing acts of bravery,” he said.
 
“You don’t think of what we did. To me, I was just doing my job. We handled it, got her down safely and then went to the next job.”
 
Dave said he was pleased when Senior Constable Andrew Swift, the officer who was attacked by a samurai sword, received a standing ovation at the ceremony.
 
“The ceremony and getting my award was a really proud moment and a massive accomplishment in my career. It is a very high award and I was not expecting that at all so I’m very happy and my family were very proud.”
 
Constable Luke Briggs, who had only been in the job for two years at the time of the incident, said he remembers the moment he first sighted the girl on the edge of the cliff.
 
“I remember talking to her and attempting to build a rapport with her, however she was reluctant to speak with us,” he said. 
 
“I remember her attempts to move further away from us by moving behind a rock toward some bush however she was putting herself at greater risk of falling, there was very little room between the rock and the edge.
“That’s when I saw Dave move toward her.”
 
Luke said while he has attended to a number of welfare checks and missing person jobs, this particular day highlighted the important and dangerous role police officers undertake each day.
 
“It highlights the fact that this job can take you anywhere and put you in unpredictable circumstances," he said.
 
“I knew that if she fell that she would have died, no one could survive a fall from that height.”
 
He said the recognition of the WA Police Cross for Bravery was a proud accomplishment in his career.
 
“It’s not every day that you receive an award for doing your job. Officers across WA go to jobs where they put themselves at risk however not everyone gets nominated for an award.”
 
By Jessica Cuthbert