PC Alice Price has been praised for the courageous rescue in Bognor Regis, West Sussex, on Sunday morning.
She and her colleague PC Shaun Moreland were alerted at 6.45am on Sunday to a report of a man in a distressed state who was planning to go into the sea.
When they located him near Butlins minutes later, he was already some 30 metres out from the shoreline, said PC Price, who immediately attached herself to a lifeline and went out into the ‘freezing’ sea.
She said it was ‘gut instinct’, adding: “It was one of those decisions you make where you don’t think about the consequences for yourself. You forget about your own safety really.”
Dragged down by his clothes and caught in a rip tide, the man swam even further out when he saw PC Price coming but she managed to take hold of him about 100 metres out.
It took about 30 minutes before she could get him slowly and safely back to shore.
PC Price said: “It was a lot of verbal communication, a lot of reassurance.
“I managed in a very short space of time, in the middle of the sea, to build up trust, so that he trusted me enough to come out of the sea.”
Back on shore, the man was looked over by the ambulance crew before being taken to hospital.
PC Price said she was ‘exhausted’ but did not need medical attention.
“I just wanted to be out of my wet clothes, I didn’t want to be checked over,” she said. “I needed to make sure he was going to be OK.”
The local man in his forties has since been receiving specialist medical support and advice, said police.
Superintendent James Collis praised PC Price, who only joined Sussex Police in 2018, and PC Moreland for their ‘great work’.
He said: “Her courage and their teamwork ensured that a vulnerable man is now safe.”
PC Price said: “It’s really nice that people say your brave and courageous, but it’s not something I thought of myself.
“It’s just a day to day duty.
“When you think about it, it could’ve been a bit dangerous, but I couldn’t stand there and watch him drown.”
She said being in the police was not just about catching criminals and that it was ‘amazing’ to be able to support someone in need.
She said: “It’s not everyday that you get to save someone’s life.
“When you tell your friends and your family what you’ve done that day, that look of shock and worry in their faces, it hits home really.
“But it’s one of the best feelings.”
Both police constables advised anyone struggling with mental health issues to seek help.
PC Price said: “A lot of people are embarrassed about it and I always say there’s nothing to be embarrassed about, asking for help."
PC Moreland added: “Always have the courage to talk to someone."
If you are affected by any issues raised in this story, contact The Samaritans for confidential support on 116 123