TONY Sweeney, a popular police officer in Leeds who won the Queen’s Police Medal for his services to the community, has died at the age of 58.
As a community officer for Lincoln Green, he helped transform crime rates in the high-rise estate from 40 burglaries a month to just two.
He was on first-name terms with many criminals as he kept his eye on crime, using the old-fashioned policing method of walking around on foot and having a cuppa with locals.
Mr Sweeney was featured in a national documentary called Forgotten Britain presented by Fergal Keane.
The grandfather’s Dixon of Dock Green-style policing resulted in him winning British Community Constable of the Year in 2000 for his grass-roots level approach. This award was presented by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister. He was the recipient of the Queen’s Police Medal a year later.
At the time, he said: “It is a fantastic honour to be recognised and to receive such an award. I accept it on behalf of every police officer working within communities throughout the country who are striving to improve the quality of life for people by reducing crime and anti-social behaviour.”
He also worked hard to prevent fuel thefts from garages across Leeds.
Mr Sweeney died on December 27 after suffering a heart attack while on his way home to Harrogate.
He latterly worked as a “partnership and problem-solving liaison officer” based in Leeds. In 2010 he broke both his ankles following a crash on his motorbike, but made a full recovery.
Superintendent Martin Snowden, of North East Leeds Division, said: “Tony was very well known and well liked by his colleagues and the public. His sudden and unexpected death has left all who knew him deeply upset and we are offering our support to everyone affected.
“Tony was a pioneer of neighbourhood policing and was a regular campaigner on a range of policing issues. He took a genuine personal pride in his work and loved being at the heart of the community tackling the issues that impact most on people’s daily lives.
“His commitment to the areas he served saw him awarded the Queen’s Police Medal in 2001 for Services to the Community. After being very seriously injured in a road accident in 2010, he showed his resilience and strength of character in the way he battled to get back to fitness and get back to work.
“He will be very sadly missed by all of us and our thoughts and sympathies are with his family at this difficult time.”
Mr Sweeney is survived by his wife, two children and two grandchildren. His funeral will be held at St Wilfrid’s Church, Duchy Road, Harrogate, next Friday.