These men and women put themselves on the line 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, and on Thursday night, amid pomp and ceremony, one of Toronto’s “best in blue” took home the top prize at the 42nd annual Police Officer of the Year Awards.

The annual event, hosted by the Toronto Board of Trade since 1967, honours one Toronto police officer who has demonstrated exceptional skill, bravery, compassion and a deep commitment to making Toronto one of the safest cities in the world.

“You have long, hard days and it shouldn’t be a thankless job,” said Carol Wilding, president and CEO of the Toronto Board of Trade as she welcomed the officers and their families. “Tonight is all about saying thank you.”

This year’s winner, Police Const. Ann-Marie Tupling, was up against 20 other nominees from across the city — each having won the Police Officer of the Month Award in their respective divisions throughout 2008. “I just can’t believe it. It doesn’t seem real,” said Tupling.

Tupling was recognized for her diligent investigative work, which led to the arrest of a man who had forced a 16-year-old girl into prostitution. Tupling, 40, currently works in the family violence and child abuse squad of 55 Division’s Investigation Unit.

Other nominees included Det. Martin Woodhouse, whose investigative skills led to the arrests and subsequent dismantling of a Scarborough gang; Staff Sgt. Shawn Meloche, who uncovered an organized crime ring and, as a result of his investigation, 30 suspects were arrested and charged — eight of whom have been convicted to date; and constables Matthew Caton and Christopher Newberry, who put their lives in peril to rescue two boys from a raging river following a severe thunderstorm.