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Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Community Policing


The Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Community Policing recognizes individual state, local, or tribal sworn rank-and-file police officers, deputies and troopers for exceptional efforts in effective policing. The awards will be presented by the Attorney General at a ceremony honoring the recipients in Washington, D.C., at the Great Hall of the Robert F. Kennedy Justice Department Building. 

Eligible candidates must be in a nonsupervisory position at the time the activities/programs/initiatives for which they are being nominated took place.  The winning officer(s), deputy(ies) and/or trooper(s) will have demonstrated active exceptional performance in one of three areas:

  1. Innovations in Community Policing

  2. Criminal Investigations

  3. Field Operations

Within each of these categories, awards will be given to sworn police officers, deputies and troopers serving within small, medium, and large jurisdictions.

  • Small: Agencies serving populations fewer than 50,000

  • Medium: Agencies serving populations 50,000 to 250,000

  • Large: Agencies serving populations over 250,000


Following are examples of eligible activities for each award area. Nominations are not limited to these specific activities; however, the nominated recent activity should exemplify policing and problem-solving principles.

Please note: Nominations are for rank-and-file officers, deputies and troopers in a non-supervisory position at the time of their nomination.

  • Innovations in Community Policing. Examples in this category include engaging in significant problem-solving activities, the creation of productive community partnerships, or the implementation of new policing programs or initiatives that have a significant impact on public safety problems, building and enhancing trust, or respect for police and community satisfaction or have led to reductions in violent crime. The ideal nominee for this award promotes public safety through a dedication to innovative policing strategies to reduce violent crime such as human trafficking, gun crime, drug trafficking, and gang violence.

  • Criminal Investigations. Examples in this category include solving a particularly difficult case such as a cold-case homicide investigation, conducting a comprehensive gang or drug investigation that results in the disruption and dismantling of a known gang responsible for significant violence in the community, using creative and collaborative investigation techniques to apprehend a prolific burglary or serial robbery suspect, working in collaboration with the community on an investigation, or developing an effective program or strategy that increases the department’s criminal case clearance rates.

  • Field Operations. Examples in this category include heroic, quick, innovative, or otherwise exceptional police work in partnership with other officers, agencies, or the community to make a significant arrest or solve a noteworthy case or community problem; solving a particularly challenging crime through community partnerships and the use of stellar preliminary investigation techniques; working with other officers, agencies, or the community to effectively enforce violations of state or federal criminal laws impacting the community including immigration and violent offenses (including drug trafficking and firearm crimes); and working to abate neighborhood blight and reduce crime, engaging at-risk youth to reduce crime and victimization and build trust, or successfully using de-escalation techniques to resolve a potentially violent situation such as a suicide, a person in a mental health crisis or struggling with substance abuse, a hostage situation, or a barricaded suspect.


To nominate someone for this award, please visit      

Nominations for the Seventh Annual Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Policing will remain open until Monday, May 20, 2024, at 8:00 p.m. EST.

Nominations may be submitted by the potential recipient’s supervisors, professional peers, or members of the local community and may include references and URL links to news sources and promotional or other materials that describe or substantiate the activity, program, or initiative for which the nominee(s) is being nominated. Nominations must be submitted in the following format:

Nominations should be submitted through the web-based application form. Nominations are limited to 5 officers/deputies per nomination.  The online application will direct the nominating individuals to complete the following fields:

  1. Name and rank of nominee(s) (must be a rank-and-file officer, deputy or trooper in a non-supervisory position), the lead agency name, and the size of population served by the agency
  2. Name and affiliation of the nominating individual
  3. Nomination category for the activities, programs, or initiatives for which the nominee(s) is being nominated (Criminal Investigations, Field Operations, or Innovations in Policing)
  4. A detailed description of the specific action(s), programs, or initiatives of the nominee(s) for which s/he is being nominated. Please make sure to include the date for which the nominated action occurred.
  5. Agency point of contact information

Nominations must be submitted by 8:00 p.m. EST, Monday, May 20, 2024. In the event that agencies or other nominating parties are unable to access the online application, nomination letters may be sent via email. The nomination letter should be no longer than three pages and should include the fields listed here. Nominations submitted in letter format must be sent via email to by 8:00 p.m. EST, Monday, May 20, 2024.

Please direct all general inquiries to


Attorney General’s Award  for  Distinguished Service in Community Policing

Award Recipients 

Congratulations to the recipients of the Attorney General’s Awards for Distinguished Service in Policing, acknowledging the exceptional work of law enforcements officers, deputies and troopers from jurisdictions across the country. Each of the officers, deputies and troopers honored has demonstrated commitment to exceptional policing in the cities, towns and localities where they serve. Through their excellent service and dedication to professional, impartial and effective policing, these individuals are having a transformational impact on their agencies by embracing policing strategies that build and strengthen trust and mutual cooperation between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.

The Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Policing recognizes individual state, local or tribal sworn police officers, deputies and troopers who exemplify remarkable achievements in innovative community policing strategies, criminal investigations, and field operations.  In the more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies throughout the country, the everyday work of individual officers, deputies and troopers often goes unsung. To remedy this, Attorney General Lynch announced the creation of this award in 2016 to honor the outstanding work of rank-and-file law enforcement.

Criminal Investigations

Sergeant David A. Benjamin, Norfolk Police Department (Virginia)

In March 2015, Anjelica “A.J.” Hadsell—home for spring break—went missing. Sergeant (formerly Detective) David A. Benjamin and his colleagues at the Norfolk Police Department immediately suspected foul play, but because A.J.’s fate was unknown, the investigation became complex and wide-ranging. Despite A.J.’s stepfather’s attempts to distract detectives by throwing suspicion on others, Benjamin and his team secured a variety of digital evidence linking him to A.J.’s disappearance— and found the young woman’s remains more than 50 miles away several weeks after she had vanished. Sergeant Benjamin worked tirelessly with local, state, and federal agencies, as well as non–law enforcement organizations, for the next three years to develop evidence that led to the indictment of the stepfather for murdering A.J. and illegally disposing of her remains. It took yet another four years of rescheduling, delays, and even a mistrial for the matter to be concluded, when the stepfather was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life (plus 15 years) in prison. Throughout the investigation, Benjamin remained steadfast in pursuing justice on A.J.’s behalf. The investigation of this disappearance was one of the longest-running in the Norfolk Police Department’s history. It involved coordination and teamwork among agencies and organizations at many levels. Sergeant Benjamin, through two promotions and various changes of assignment, made considerable personal and professional sacrifices in those seven years to bring the case to its just conclusion.

Detective Christopher Crawford, Maine State Police Department

The sexual assault of a child is horrific and life-changing. Unfortunately, too often society addresses such crimes in ways that can retraumatize survivors. Even in jurisdictions with no statute of limitations on prosecution of child sexual abuse, adults who were victimized as children often remain silent rather than subject themselves to the scrutiny that comes with being identified. In Maine, using state laws governing the recording of video calls (which took place much more frequently with the advent of the pandemic), Detective Christopher Crawford devised an investigative strategy that yielded indisputable evidence implicating a physician’s assistant who had been assaulting boys and young men in Maine and four other states since the late 1960s. The suspect deployed numerous legal maneuvers to evade indictment, but Crawford diligently assembled so many interviews that the case against him was overwhelming. For three years, Crawford maintained communication with more than 20 confirmed survivors and their families, as well as others who preferred to remain anonymous, until the offender was convicted and sentenced in August 2021. Detective Crawford continues to be instrumental in solving sexual assault cases in the state of Maine. His professional tenacity and personal com- passion bring comfort to survivors and justice to those who have done them harm.

Detective Kimberly Laster and Detective Maria Llovio, Sarasota Police Department (Florida)

In 2022, two unhoused women were sexually assaulted and strangled to death in less than three weeks within a half-mile of each other in Sarasota, Florida. Detectives Kimberly Laster and Maria Llovio, the lead investigators on the two cases, noted the similarities between the victims and the circumstances in which they were found. Examination of the victims’ cell phone data revealed their recent movements, and surveillance camera footage from the hours before each woman’s demise showed that both had been seen in the company of the same man near the same store shortly before their deaths. Detectives Laster and Llovio tracked one victim’s phone to an encampment where, two days after the second murder, they found the man with the clothing he had been seen wearing in the security video with the first victim. The suspect voluntarily gave a DNA sample, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement expedited the analysis, confirming within 24 hours that the suspect was connected with the first murder. Several months later that crime lab notified the detectives that DNA on the suspect’s clothing was a match for the second victim as well. Detectives Laster and Llovio’s comprehensive investigation and their commitment to the pursuit of justice led to this dangerous suspect’s arrest. The suspect died of a seizure three months after his arrest.

Detective Erik Whitlock, North Richland Hills Police Department (Texas)

In 2013, Detective Eric Whitlock was assigned to the 10-year-old case of the nonfatal shooting of North Richland Hills Police Department (NRHPD) Officer Jeff Garner in the line of duty while attempting to conduct a traffic stop. Whitlock knew that the driver in the traffic stop had just robbed a bank in a nearby city; he identified six similar bank robberies in the previous five years and suspected thatif he could solve any of these, he could identify the driver who had shot Officer Garner on his motorcycle in 2003. The unsolved cases of all seven bank robberies included DNA evidence that yielded no actionable results; but by 2021, forensic analysis technology had advanced sufficiently to provide a promising lead. Detective Whitlock coordinated with federal and local agencies and carefully investigated and accumulated evidence leading to search warrants for the suspect’s home and vehicle as well as a previously owned vehicle. Execution of those war- rants showed that the previously owned vehicle was the same SUV he had been driving in the 2003 traffic stop and that his gun was the one that had been used to shoot Officer Garner. The suspect died by suicide rather than face arrest.

Detective Whitlock’s determination and his use of traditional as well as innovative investigative techniques brought resolution to the victims of seven bank robberies going back 25 years, as well as to Officer Garner, who continues to serve at the NRHPD—now as an Assistant Chief.

Detective Ezekiel Sisneros, Monte Vista Police Department (Colorado)

For eight months beginning in September 2020, Detective Ezekiel Sisneros worked with agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to pursue federal criminal charges against a well-established local drug dealer connected to a case in which a transaction had gone bad and led to an exchange of gunfire. The warrants arising from Sisneros’s investigation led to the seizure of more than a pound of methamphetamine and other drugs, four firearms, and four arrests. The U.S. Attorney’s Office successfully prosecuted the dealer and secured a 16-year prison sentence. Detective Sisneros regularly works with and assists federal agencies with a multitude of cases in Monte Vista and the San Luis Valley, investigating drug activity that routinely leads to search and arrest warrants. His dedication to eradicating these harmful substances and the guns used by those who traffic in them is making a measurable difference in the safety of his community.

Field Operations

Officer Pedram Farhang, Oakland Police Department (California)

Officer Pedram Farhang recognized the limitations patrol officers face in becoming familiar with and retaining information about suspects and vehicles wanted for violent crimes, because of their workload and the volume of emails they receive daily. That led him to begin distributing a weekly department-wide document containing photos of suspect vehicles and brief descriptions of the past month’s crimes, condensing 50 emails into one quick-reading digest and allowing his colleagues to use their time more efficiently. In early 2022, his efforts paid off: Farhang recognized that two murders in different nearby cities were similar and that vehicles linked to both were involved in auto burglaries throughout Oakland. His innovative approach to collecting and disseminating critical law enforcement information made his colleagues aware of these connections and led to the apprehension of two suspects and the recovery of the primary suspect vehicle. In the past year, through similar creative efforts in the Crime Gun Intelligence Center, Officer Farhang has assisted in generating leads and identifying suspects or suspect vehicles in more than 50 violent crimes across the San Francisco Bay Area. In a single overtime shift, he located a vehicle stolen in a carjacking at gunpoint, apprehended a gang member linked to several recent crimes, and located a vehicle used in a series of armed robberies—resulting in three arrests and the recovery of three “ghost” handguns. Farhang has also prepared a training curriculum for new officers in areas related to proactive and constitutional policing. His comprehensive knowledge of details regarding suspects and vehicles wanted in connection with violent crimes and his efforts to make that knowledge available to his colleagues have substantially improved public safety in his community.

Deputy Tanya Garcia and Deputy Esteban Hernandez, Harris County Sheriff’s Office (Texas)

Deputy Tanya Garcia—a patrol field training deputy—and her trainee were dispatched to a situation where a police officer and military veteran was armed, intoxicated, and suicidal. He became agitated when Garcia tried to speak to him. She called for additional resources and assigned them individual roles, having a colleague take over communication with the subject so she could continue briefing deputies as they arrived. One of those subsequent arrivals was Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT) Deputy Esteban Hernandez, who immediately began to assist in the de-escalation. Deputies had successfully taken one gun from the belligerent subject, but Hernandez learned he had another and was eventually able to confiscate that weapon as well. Once the subject was disarmed, Hernandez transported him to the Veterans Affairs hospital. This attempted “suicide by cop” was a challenging case for Deputies Garcia and Hernandez. The fact that the subject was a veteran and an experienced police officer added to the difficulty. They remained aware of their responsibility for the safety of the subject, his distraught family members, and other deputies on the scene—including trainees—and took great care to handle the call with empathy and compassion.

Patrolman First Class Demetrius Amos and Patrolman First Class Mackenzie Handel, Pocatello Police Department (Idaho)

In May 2022, Officers Demetrius Amos and Mackenzie Handel and their trainees (new hires on just their third day with the Pocatello Police Department) responded to a domestic disturbance in which a man was threatening a woman and a child with a gun. When the officers and trainees arrived, the subject turned his rifle on them. Officer Amos fired twice, and the subject fled to an alley, took cover, and lay in wait to ambush them when they followed. When they did, he fired multiple rounds—gravely injuring Amos and then injuring Officer Handel, who had placed himself in the line of fire to protect his trainees. Handel was able to direct additional responding officers to the subject, who surrendered, and to guide a new hire in providing emergency medical care for Amos and himself. The subject was transported to a local hospital by ambulance; Amos and Handel were evacuated in patrol vehicles. Officer Handel’s selflessness and quick thinking resulted in his own injury but likely saved the lives of officers around him, including Officer Amos. Amos’s encouraging messages to his department through his period of recovery unquestionably improved morale among colleagues who had been affected by the incident. When they initially arrived at the hospital, both Amos and Handel had walked into the emergency room with support from their colleagues; when they were released, they both insisted on walking out.

Officer Sheena Shelton, Forest Park Police Department (Georgia)

In July 2022, Officer Sheena Shelton took control of a response to a call for service in which a woman was threatening her husband with a rifle. The subject was irate and suicidal, arguing with officers and not allowing anyone to approach her home. Shelton maintained phone contact for several hours and persuaded her to cooperate, surrender her weapon, and submit to police custody, but she was frightened by the heavy police presence and retreated, rearmed, and retrenched. Shelton continued to assure the subject that officers would not harm her and again convinced her to turn over her weapon, come outdoors, and surrender peacefully. She was finally taken into custody without incident. The lives of the armed subject, her husband, other responding officers, and other community members the subject might have harmed in her agitated state were saved by Officer Shelton’s cool head and calm demeanor in a tense, high pressure crisis situation.

Officer Marc Navarro, Los Alamitos Police Department (California)

Officer Marc Navarro embraces the concepts of community- oriented policing in every aspect of his work—before, during, and after events calling for police presence. He has successfully persuaded the city to increase funding for protective gear to allow the police to provide an enhanced response to critical incidents. At a traffic stop, he gave an elderly driver a written warning expressing concern about her future safety rather than a formal citation; she later wrote a letter to a local magazine, which followed up with an article about Navarro and his community policing techniques. During another traffic incident, in which a driver’s medical emergency caused a collision, Navarro climbed into the car and reclined the driver’s seat to perform CPR rather than lay him on the hot asphalt as would have been normal procedure. His door-to-door efforts to locate doorbell camera or surveillance foot- age of an attempted carjacking impressed the victim enough to send the department a message of gratitude. Navarro’s thorough attention to the well-being of his colleagues and his town’s residents both show his commitment to community-oriented policing and public safety.

Innovations in Community Policing

Officer Grace Albritton, St. Petersburg Police Department (Florida)

Officer Grace Albritton knows that self-esteem and having basic resources are critical to a student’s success. So when she returned to her own high school as a school resource officer (SRO), she created a resource for students who lacked school supplies, hygiene items, and adequate clothing and shoes. “Grace’s Closet,” operating in partnership with other community organizations and school alumni, occupies a full classroom and runs like a shop with flexible hours. Students can get items they need without stigma—especially crucial for young people who are unhoused, of whom Pinellas County has approximately 4,000, and who are much more likely than their housing-secure peers to withdraw from school and to fall into a cycle of violence, crime, and drug use. Officer Albritton also mentors and advises a half-dozen student clubs and organizations in her role as an SRO. She was named the Pinellas County School Board’s School Resource Officer of the Year in 2021–22 and clearly demonstrates her commitment to a positive relationship between law enforcement and the community.

Officer Jimmy Pittmann II, Oakland Police Department (California)

Officer Jimmy Pittman operates the OK Program of Oakland, a collaborative mentoring and leadership development pro- gram for Black male teenagers that focuses on developing critical thinking skills and promoting academic excellence. He is known for the high standards he sets for himself as a police officer and a Black male leader in the community, and he works collaboratively with the program participants to reach their full potential as future leaders and role models. The middle and high school program rewards academic performance and good citizen- ship, facilitates a weekly study hall, and even provides food to families as needed. Pittman and his colleagues also offer workshops and practical skill-building services to the young participants on diverse topics including financial literacy, decision-making, self-awareness, anger management, violence prevention, social conduct, interacting with the police, and community service. Officer Pittman is a trusted figure in the Oakland community, where he often mediates conflicts before they escalate to issues requiring serious police involvement. His exemplary commitment to strengthening relation- ships between law enforcement and the young men in the OK Program make Pittman a true asset to the community.

Officer Yessenia Diaz, Miramar Police Department (Florida)

Officer Yessenia Diaz’s creative solutions to long-standing problems facing senior citizens have had an important impact on the community. She frequently meets with com- munity groups of diverse backgrounds and finds new ways to work together with residents and develop engaging crime prevention programs. Her Safety Bingo presentation engages older adults in the Miramar Police Department’s S.A.L.T. (Seniors And Law Enforcement Together) group to learn important safety lessons in an interactive way, using bingo cards with public safety tips—things like, “The IRS will never just show up at your house!” and “UPS drivers always wear black shoes!” She also organized a fashion safety show with a red-carpet runway featuring police, city officials, uniformed delivery services, and others to teach older adults how to distinguish legitimate uniforms from fraudulent ones and how to verify the identity of someone who knocks on their door.

Officer Diaz’s dedication to helping older adults in her area stay aware of and avoid predatory scams is a genuine asset to the community.

Officer Henni Hamby, Tallahassee Police Department (Florida)

Officer Henni Hamby has found creative ways to connect with the community she serves, even when the COVID-19 pandemic brought many community activities to a stand- still. She held virtual meetings with neighborhoods and community organizations when they couldn’t meet in person, and she proactively developed other new ways to interact with the community. The Community Relations Unit partnered with a local business to bring a mobile trailer to neighborhoods to deliver snow cones to community members and their children, enabling Hamby and her unit to make safe contacts with youth and adults and foster positive connections with the community. Officer Hamby is devoted to public safety for people of all ages. She operates programs including a personal safety and empowerment program for elementary school children, as well as a car seat check program for parents. Hamby is also an advocate of senior programs, because she recognizes that older adults are more vulnerable than most when it comes to theft, abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, and other crimes. Hamby is the department’s Citizen Police Academy (CPA) coordinator and has developed an outstanding partnership with the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) organization. She works tirelessly to serve her community.

Officer Michael Peale, Broken Arrow Police Department (Oklahoma)

Many Spanish speakers in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, do not speak English and are distrustful of the police. Officer Michael Peale, the Public Affairs Officer, does not speak Spanish himself but knew his department needed to reach out to everyone in the community it serves. To address this service gap, in 2019 he developed a curriculum for a Spanish language Citizens’ Police Academy. Many of the program’s first students were religious leaders, local business owners, and civic leaders, further amplifying the department’s reach to the Spanish-speaking community. Since the start of the Citizens’ Police Academy in Spanish, reporting of minor crimes has increased and the incidence of violent crimes has decreased in Broken Arrow’s Spanish-speaking communities. Officer Peale has heard from residents crediting the relationships the department has built with the Spanish-speaking community and from fellow officers agreeing that they’ve seen more Spanish speakers coming forward as witnesses. Peale’s program is now influencing surrounding areas as police departments in other states have asked for information on the program’s design and coordination. Peale not only makes sure everyone in his local community has access to police department services but also shares his experience and resources with other states who help to start similar programs.

Patrol Officer Heather M. McClelland, Groton Police Department (Connecticut)

Officer Heather McClelland is a believer in creative police work. She initiated a police therapy dog program, where a police officer partners with a therapy dog to assist members of the public. She and her therapy dog, Chase, provide support to community members and fellow officers as well as jurisdictions outside of Connecticut that have asked for her help. Since its inception in August 2019, the program has paid major dividends to the community, law enforcement, and other first responders, as well as other jurisdictions.

Officer McClelland organizes and runs in the Groton portion of the Special Olympics Torch Run. She has also organized and helped with other community events such as the Safe Futures Toy Drive, a United Way Food Distribution Drive, the Special Olympics “Penguin Plunge,” a drug take- back day, and meet-and-greet events at area businesses, along with Chase. McClelland also organized the Cops and Comfort Dogs Symposium in Groton, which brought law enforcement and their numerous comfort dogs together from other states to learn more about the program and discover ways to take it to their own communities.

Criminal Investigations Category

Sergeant Kurt Berardino and Sergeant Christopher Perez, Miami-Dade (FL) Police Department

In July 2020, a ShotSpotter alert showed that 21 shots had been fired on a Miami street. The aftermath left a seven-year-old dead and another child and two adults injured. Detectives Kurt Berardino and Christopher Perez (now both sergeants) immersed themselves in the subsequent investigation, poring over multiple Crime Stoppers tips, reviewing hours of surveillance footage, and questioning potential witnesses. As Berardino and Perez developed the case, they established a rapport with two of the survivors, and those survivors provided a positive identification of the subjects involved in the shooting. This positive identification was key in furthering other leads that were gathered. Evidence collected was crucial in solidifying victim statements and the timeline of the events. Arrest warrants were eventually issued, and in September 2020 the detectives traveled to Georgia, where one suspect was taken into custody and later confessed; a second suspect was also arrested. It was the tenacity, persistence, and determination of Detectives Berardino and Perez that closed this case and brought justice to the families of the victims and to the community.

Detective Victor Powell* and Detective Jonathan Smith, Norfolk (VA) Police Department

In September 1980, a woman was found dead in her Norfolk apartment, a victim of a brutal murder. Despite an investigation at the time, no solid leads into the case were developed until cold case Detectives Victor Powell and Jonathan Smith took on the case 38 years later and pursued a DNA analysis. The results showed a potential suspect in Michigan. Powell and Smith conducted numerous witness interviews, then obtained a warrant and arrested the suspect. The suspect was extradited to Norfolk and eventually confessed to the 1980 murder. He also admitted to previously unresolved, uncharged sexual assaults between 1976 and 1977 in San Diego, California. In the summer of 2020, the defendant pled guilty to first-degree murder, rape, and burglary arising from the brutal attack on the victim in 1980 and was sentenced to a life term of imprisonment on both the first-degree murder and the rape convictions and a term of 20 years in prison on the burglary conviction. Also, as a result of the resolution of the case in Norfolk, the state of Michigan was able to return the defendant to the state to stand trial for pending charges related to the 1989 death of his adopted daughter. Smith and Powell’s dedication to this investigation brought great credit to the Norfolk Police Department from across the United States and brought peace to a family who fought for justice for 40 years.

*Detective Powell, a 31-year veteran of the Norfolk Police Department, passed away May 21, 2020; he is remembered for his outstanding service to the department.

Detective Ben Pender, Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake (UT)

In November 2010, a woman was found brutally murdered in her South Salt Lake, Utah bookstore. The scene was processed and fingerprints, a palm print, and DNA were recovered, which later provided a profile of an unknown male suspect. In 2018, cold case Detective Ben Pender worked with a genetic genealogist and was eventually given more than 300 names for target testing. Pender researched their names and addresses, ultimately traveled to eight states, and fostered relationships with 50 target test subjects, who provided swabs for DNA testing. In the fall of 2020, Pender was provided a close genetic match with the DNA left at the crime scene and eventually identified the name of a suspect. Pender worked with detectives from the Major Investigations Unit (MIU) to conduct surveillance on the suspect and collect a DNA sample, which turned out to be a match. Pender arrested the suspect, who admitted to the murder and provided critical details. If not for Pender’s tenacious efforts, this homicide might never have been solved and a grieving family might still not have found justice. Pender has closed several unresolved homicides and missing persons cases and worked homicides for other agencies. In addition, in 2018 he organized the first annual Hope Conference for families of unresolved homicide victims, during which participants learned that every open unresolved case would be examined no less often than every 18 months.

Detective-Sergeant Jeffrey Araujo and Major Christopher Reed, Central Falls (RI) Police Department

In July 2007, a cab driver was shot in his cab and died by the time he was transported to the hospital. Witnesses reported seeing three young men run from the scene, some tossing their baseball caps as they ran. When processing the scene, Detective (now Detective-Sergeant) Jeffrey Araujo and Detective (now Major) Christopher Reed discovered two baseball caps in the vicinity of the shooting. The detectives later spoke with the victim’s wife, who said she was on the phone with her husband just before the shooting. She said her husband had called to say he was not comfortable with the three men in his taxi and wanted to keep her on the phone in case something went wrong. Shortly after, his wife heard a struggle and the phone disconnected.

Detectives Araujo and Reed were later contacted by a confidential informant, who identified a man he said had shot the driver; they also received information about the other two men in the car. Through their diligent efforts over the years, in May 2017 the detectives spoke with a subject who wanted to provide information on the case. At the same time, the detectives spoke with another individual who reported the suspects had talked about the murder the day after it happened. Araujo and Reed then resubmitted both baseball hats and requested they be tested against the profiles of the three suspects. There was a match, and with this and other evidence, the detectives secured an indictment. After a trial, the suspect was convicted and sentenced. Because of the detectives’ tenacious work, the victim’s children and family were able to see that justice was finally served.

Field Operations Category

Deputy Sarah Merriman, Richland County (SC) Sheriff’s Department

When Deputy Sarah Merriman was dispatched to a call for a domestic dispute in progress, she was told in advance that the suspect had a firearm and had already assaulted a woman. Upon her arrival, she saw a very agitated man with a shotgun in his hand, and one of several women on the scene was bleeding profusely from her head. Merriman had to decide instantly whether to draw her weapon; recognizing the subject’s state of mind, she chose to talk to him. She pleaded with him to drop the weapon—and once additional patrol deputies arrived and aimed their guns at him, she encouraged him to focus on talking to her. The suspect taunted Merriman for several minutes, yelling at her to pull her weapon and shoot him. Finally, Merriman was able to calm him down and he lowered the shotgun; she then took him into custody. Deputy Merriman’s actions exemplify what it is to be a guardian. Her ability to recognize the individual’s state of mind—and her realization that drawing her weapon would escalate the situation—prevented a tragic outcome and saved at least one life that day.

Officer Kristen Schmidt, Portland (OR) Police Bureau

Officer Kristen Schmidt, part of the Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team at the Portland Police Bureau, responded to a call from the local Humane Society, where a woman trying to recover her cats from the shelter had become belligerent. Schmidt did not know at the time that the woman was in the midst of an extended period of psychosis; the sudden appearance of several uniformed officers, an ambulance, and staff from a community health agency exacerbated her condition.

In an effort to calm the situation, Officer Schmidt sat with the woman and patiently explained the need to go to the hospital. When the ambulance driver told the woman to get on the gurney and her agitation returned, Schmidt then drove the woman to the hospital herself. She talked to her during the drive; the woman reported, “She treated me with dignity and respect and looked for ways to connect with me.”

Officer Schmidt kept in touch with the woman during her three-week hospitalization, picked her up when she was released, and drove her to the shelter to retrieve her dog, who had also been left there. The woman said she felt treated with “compassion and humanity.” A year after the incident, the woman met Schmidt at the precinct to express her gratitude and share how differently she felt that day could have gone if Schmidt had not been the officer on the scene. She believes that Schmidt is a powerful role model for sensitive and compassionate police work for people in vulnerable situations.

Officer Travis Allen and Officer Brendan Fowler, Irving (TX) Police Department

In the winter of 2021, officers responded to a call of a drowning in progress. A family had ventured out onto an ice-covered canal to take photos, but the father and mother had fallen through the ice into the frigid waters. When Officer Brendan Fowler arrived on the scene, he threw a lifeline to both, telling them to wrap it around themselves to remain above water. Officer Travis Allen arrived next and communicated with Fowler to develop a rescue plan. The fire department arrived and slid two ladders out onto the ice, but the woman was succumbing to the cold and began to go under. Allen immediately crawled out on the ladder and held the woman’s face above the water. A firefighter crawled out on the other ladder just as the ice broke under Allen, dumping him into the water. Allen and the firefighter, now exposed to the extremely cold water, worked quickly and managed to lift the woman onto a ladder. Other officers who were now on the scene made sure that everyone was attached to the ladder and pulled the ladder onto the shore. The husband was responsive, but the wife was unresponsive and showed signs of hypothermia onset. They were then transported to the hospital, where both recovered. If it were not for the quick response and heroic actions taken by Allen and Fowler, the outcome could have been very different.

Officer Cody Hubbard, Pottsville (AR) Police Department

In May 2021, Officer Cody Hubbard responded to a call of a cardiac arrest of a three-week-old child who was not breathing. Immediately upon his arrival, Hubbard began life-saving efforts and started the Heimlich maneuver for infants. The baby soon began to cry and breathe on his own. The Pope County emergency medical services team then arrived and took over the scene. Hubbard was awarded the department’s Life Saving Award for his actions. Under a very stressful situation, he was able to retain, recall, and apply the lifesaving training he had received. Officer Hubbard saved a young life and earned the respect of the community.

Innovations in Community Policing Category

Detective Latosha Prather, Detective Khary Ricketts, and Detective Dan-nae Webber, DeKalb County (GA) Police Department

Detective Latosha Prather, Detective Khary Ricketts, and Detective Dan-nae Webber’s work for the Police Athletic League (PAL) has taken their outreach efforts to new heights and helped many children stay connected in the process. This was especially true during the summer of 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic threatened to leave at-risk youth with no summer programs. The detectives implemented a Virtual Summer Academy that connected participants via Zoom, Instagram, and Facebook, focusing on mentorship, education, and athletics. Community leaders, teachers and coaches, business leaders, entrepreneurs, and other nonprofits partnered with the PAL to make this innovative event happen. The program reached a total of 1,018 children and adults. When the summer ended, the unit launched its Back to School Backpack Giveaway, providing supplies to students who otherwise would have had trouble getting them. Next was the second annual virtual Gaming with a Cop event, to keep students busy while they were out of school for the President’s Day holiday. The event allowed kids to bond with DeKalb County police officers while competing against them in live video games.

When officers began noticing children on the ramps of the interstates selling bottled water, they knew this was both a safety hazard and a potential breeding ground for other crimes. The detectives of the DeKalb County PAL once again put their heads together and implemented a Career Development Program—a four-month life skills program to provide students with personal growth opportunities and to prepare them for future careers. PAL partnered with Georgia Piedmont Technical College, local entrepreneurs, youth mentors, volunteers, and other police department support units. After the first session, eight of the nine participants were helped through the interview process and are now employed, with the remaining participant enrolling in the Georgia Piedmont College dual enrollment program.

Deputy Sheriff Joseph Angelico, Martin County (FL) Sheriff’s Office

Since joining the Community Oriented Policing Unit in 2005, Deputy Sheriff Joseph Angelico has established excellent relationships with the community and earned the trust of community members, who often provide him with critical information. A recent example occurred in May 2021, when a local restaurant fire was declared a case of arson. Within days, Angelico had identified the suspect.

Deputy Sheriff Angelico views problems as challenges, and his goal is looking for solutions. For example, Angelico sought a proactive solution to the problem of crime in the summer, when the beach community is flooded with tourists. He coordinated countless hours of all-terrain vehicle beach patrols and bicycle parking lot patrols, giving out Criminal Opportunity Reports to visitors to educate them and enlist them in crime prevention efforts.

Deputy Sheriff Angelico has also established a strong working relationship with the local Department of Human Services to work on helping the homeless population. One homeless Navy veteran, who consistently refused services and shelter, now has both housing and a new outlook on life because of Angelico’s compassion and tireless work.

Deputy Sheriff Angelico especially made his skills work for the community during the pandemic, when he spearheaded many small operations. He used a substation facility at the local mall to meet with community members, answering their questions and giving them information. He was also actively involved in assisting with numerous protests during the summer of 2020, allowing protesters to voice their concerns while also preventing violence. His professionalism and dedication are unparalleled, and his knowledge and experience in community policing have established him as a leader and mentor to others in the office.

Officer Tom Hart, Walpole (MA) Police Department

Officer Tom Hart’s community policing efforts have gone a long way toward building relationships between law enforcement and the community in Walpole, and his efforts have had an impact well beyond the city limits. Hart joined the department in 2013 after a career as a special education teacher. He quickly became involved in many community policing initiatives involving Walpole’s youth. He initially served as a mentor to Walpole schools, with a focus on positive interactions with children who suffer from developmental disabilities. Hart’s efforts include a “positive ticket” campaign to reward “kids caught doing right”; a basketball-cop program, where officers play sports with area youth; and a ride to school program, where each month a student is given a full police escort from his or her home to school. Hart also serves as a leader in the Student Police Advisory Council, and he leads a community-based crisis intervention team that assists with finding resources for those with mental illness.

Officer Hart’s efforts to bridge the gap between Walpole’s youth and the police department resulted in him being named a school resource officer in 2017. He hit the ground running and established the Walpole Junior Police Academy, where middle school students spend a week learning about discipline, physical fitness, and police functions. He also took students with learning disabilities on a field trip to visit an organization called Golden Opportunities for Independence (GOFI), which trains service dogs for a variety of needs.

The visit was so well received  that Officer Hart began discussing the idea of police using service dogs as an ice breaker, as well as to assist individuals when responding to traumatic incidents. Hart received approval from town officials, and GOFI donated a golden retriever named “Rebel” to the police. The program has proved such a success that a number of other departments in the state now have a service dog assigned to them, and the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office announced that they would be funding a grant to purchase service dogs for other jurisdictions. Other states have also expressed an interest in replicating the program. Hart’s innovative ideas have proved invaluable in furthering the department’s community policing efforts (and Rebel, the service dog, has now become the face of the Walpole Police Department).

Officer Danielle St. Peter, Barnstable (MA) Police Department

Officer Danielle St. Peter’s commitment to the Barnstable Police Community Impact Unit (CIU) has had a tremendous impact on the community of Barnstable. The CIU works with partner agencies to bring medical care, substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling, and housing services to homeless and disadvantaged populations. St. Peter routinely assumes the role of case manager, counselor, and problem solver by using an individualized approach to de-escalate tense situations and connect people with services tailored to their needs.

In the fall of 2020, the CIU received information about a mother with mental illness living with her baby in a homeless camp. Officer St. Peter forged a relationship with the young mother, building trust with her over a period of time, and removing the fear of criminal enforcement. She connected her with the appropriate services and eventually was able to move the mother and child into more suitable housing, watching as their quality of life improved dramatically.

Recently, Officer St. Peter skillfully managed a tense situation, as police officers tried to persuade a mentally ill woman who was living in her car to leave her vehicle for a psychiatric committal. Using compassion and skills honed over time, St. Peter provided comfort to the scared woman and deescalated the situation. She ultimately oversaw her transfer to a care facility and reconnected with her after treatment, helping her to secure temporary housing and get the mental health treatment she needed. Because of St. Peter’s compassion, care, and philosophy of community policing, the woman remains stabilized and they communicate regularly. St. Peter’s upbeat attitude, conflict resolution skills, patience, and work ethic are all part of her extreme effectiveness and a true demonstration of community policing.

Officer Tamrah Stepien, East Windsor (CT) Police Department

Since joining the department in 2011, Officer Tamrah Stepien has excelled at her many efforts to build relationships with the community, beginning with her role as a school resource officer. She became certified in crisis intervention training and has demonstrated skill and leadership in that role. Stepien also serves on the Multi-Jurisdictional Team Task Force, where she has demonstrated her compassion and professionalism in rape crisis work and domestic violence intervention. When Stepien approached her chief about pursuing a master’s degree in social work, he knew what a valuable asset that would be for the department. On her own time, Stepien pursued the degree and graduated with honors, also completing 900 clinical hours and other requirements to become a master’s level social worker in the state of Connecticut.

In the wake of the tragic murder of George Floyd in May 2020, Connecticut adopted a comprehensive police accountability law, one component of which requires each law enforcement agency to design a means of integrating social workers into policing. Because of Officer Stepien, the East Windsor Police Department is in the unique position of integrating a police officer into social work. Now, the department is establishing a new mental health team that will be housed in the department and will be responsible for early intervention in mental health calls. Stepien will lead this new unit, which will integrate the town’s Youth Services Bureau and work closely with the department’s school resource officer and with social workers from the school district. The unit will also provide enhanced peer support in the police department to proactively address mental health concerns among officers. Stepien’s compassion for her community, her training, and her experience are helping make East Windsor’s mental health unit a model for the state of Connecticut.

Ceremony program

Innovations in Community Policing Category

Officer James Bryant, Detective Traves Humpherys, Officer Darling Mapes, Officer Strahinja Pavlovic, Detective David Shive, and Officer Luis Vidal of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Nevada

The Bolden community had always been a challenge for police officers and it was very difficult to build trust with residents. Youth in the community also struggled, and the numbers showed poor academic records and low graduation rates. So when an area merchant wanted to create a free, fully accredited baseball league for youth, police officers jumped in to assist as coaches for the Bolden Little League (BLL). Just two years after it started, and as relationships between police officers and the children and their families strengthened, the league expanded to 14 teams and 186 children. The league focused on reducing violent crime by building trust and positively affecting the children and families involved; and the success was in the numbers, with the neighborhoods surrounding the park posting a 76% reduction in violent crime from 2018 to 2019.

Officer Philip Smith of the Evansville Police Department, Indiana

Officer Philip Smith is the symbol of community policing in Evansville, Indiana, where he serves as the special projects coordinator for the Evansville Police Department. His community outreach efforts have put a human face on the badge, and his efforts have encouraged the public to work with the police and the police to have an ally in the public. Smith runs the Department’s Facebook page, which now has 45,000 subscribers – in a city of 117,000! His social media activity includes weekly videos celebrating different officers and community members, and photos of police and kids on department-sponsored trips to theme parks. He also helped create the department’s breast cancer awareness fundraiser, and established a program where salons and barbershops host officers for informal chats with their patrons. All this community outreach has meant that when the department now has to explain an officer involved shooting, or asks the public for help in recognizing a criminal, there is a community now pre-disposed to understand and work with the department more than ever before.

Officer Sally Landrum of the Willingboro Police Department, New Jersey

When the Willingboro Police Department named Officer Sally Landrum its inaugural Community Engagement Officer, she became the face of the department in her community. Her goal was to build trust and legitimacy by engaging residents of all backgrounds in positive interactions and she found a myriad of ways to do that. Officer Landrum dove into her new role with gusto, quickly earning the respect of local religious leaders and community organizations. Her initiatives include recruitment events; story times where police read to children at the local library; anti-drug programs in the schools; toiletry drives for the homeless; training on how to spot telephone scams and mail fraud for older adults; breast and prostate cancer awareness campaigns; food, coat, and toy drives; a resiliency program for officers in distress; and a community service diversion program for young offenders. Through these efforts, community residents now know they have a friend in the Willingboro PD, and both the department and the community are better for it.

Detective Archie Lidey of the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety, Oregon

When Josephine County, Oregon, suffered a funding crisis, Detective Archie Lidey zoomed into action. The situation was dire, with staffing reduced at the sheriff’s office and the jail, limiting the number of offenders that could be housed. Citations were issued to most criminal offenders instead of placing them under arrest.  But Detective Lidey began a grassroots effort to find and maintain funding. As a founding member of Securing Our Safety (SOS), formed specifically to overcome the law enforcement–funding crisis, Detective Lidey organized a 5k race that grew to 700 participants in 2020. Lidey and SOS also raised over $60,000 to complete a study of local justice and law enforcement programs. They also formed a nonprofit called Grace Roots, to establish a residential treatment center for people with addictions; and he was key in establishing the Grants Pass Treatment Center, a methadone and suboxone treatment program for substance abuse addiction. Josephine County went from having no treatment facility to one that now sees more than 300 patients a day. And funding-wise, it has all paid off: since 2013, Detective has coordinated events and contributions that now total $324,000.

Criminal Investigations Category

Detective Kenneth Williams of the Metropolitan Police Department, Washington, DC

Detective Kenneth Williams, with the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, DC, was determined to pursue a cold case file to bring a serial rapist and murderer to justice. For over twenty years, Detective Williams followed leads and pursued the case. His efforts ultimately led him to a town in South Carolina, where a suspect was taken into custody and extradited to Washington, DC.

Special Agent Ryan Kedley of the Iowa Department of Public Safety, Iowa

Special Agent Ryan Kedley orchestrated and oversaw one of the largest sexual exploitation investigations in Iowa state history. Kedley’s team discovered that, for almost 20 years, a local youth basketball coach had been secretly amassing thousands of videos and photos of his players and their friends. Investigators determined the coach had sexually assaulted at least 15 young men and victimized another 400, though the actual numbers are suspected to be much higher. The former coach is now serving a 180-year sentence in prison – the longest sentence possible for the charges he faced.

Detective Bryan Bennett, Detective Ty Deichert, Detective Fred Longobricco, and Detective Ian Ranshaw of the Thornton Police Department, Colorado

These four Thornton (CO) detectives diligently pursued a high-level Walmart credit card scheme that eventually led the detectives to partner with the F.B.I., the U.S. Postal Service, the Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department. Senior citizens in particular were targeted by this confidence scheme, who unknowingly became the source of millions of dollars of fraudulently obtained funds – funds that were eventually laundered and sold as gift cards overseas. The detectives conducted numerous surveillance operations, covertly went through the suspects’ trash on multiple occasions, spent days reassembling shredded gift cards, and ultimately followed their leads to East Asia. So far, two defendants have now pleaded guilty, and 25 other defendants are being monitored.

Detective Ryan Flood of the Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Office , Officer Vance Henning, Jr. and Investigator Denny Vokes of the Fond du Lac Police Department, Wisconsin

These dedicated individuals sought to stem an increase in shootings, drug trafficking, illegal guns, and gang activity; and their work achieved just that, with illegal drugs, guns, and violent criminals removed from city streets and community trust revived. Forming a coalition that included agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, over 50 active, armed participants in the illegal drug trade were identified, many with criminal gang ties. The investigation also led to a major firearms straw purchasing scheme. Hundreds of hours of surveillance, interviews with numerous suspects and dozens of warrant executions have led to the arrest of 35 suspects, with many more arrests and indictments still pending. These cases also involved the disruption of networks distributing cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine, including the largest single heroin seizure in the history of Fond du Lac.

Field Operations Category

Officer Sherrelle Mitchell and Officer Felix Rivera of the Philadelphia Police Department, Pennsylvania

Sometimes lost in the narrative of American policing are the lives that officers save. This particular drama unfolded on an August night in Philadelphia, when Officer Felix Rivera was monitoring a large party. When he heard multiple gunshots Officer Rivera first radioed for help, and then rushed toward the shots. Officer Sherrelle Mitchell quickly sped to the scene. The officers found a gunshot victim bleeding profusely. After applying a tourniquet, the officers placed the victim in their vehicle and rushed to the hospital. On the way, the victim lost consciousness several times, and Officer Mitchell continued to perform CPR and chest compressions. The heroic actions of these officers saved a life that night. 

Officer Natalie Eucce and Corporal Seay-Peter Floyd of the Fayetteville Police Department, Arkansas

In December 2019 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, an individual determined to assassinate law enforcement officers, and armed with 100 rounds of ammunition, approached a police car and fired 10 times, killing Officer Stephen Carr. Hearing the shots and seeing the suspect, Corporal Seay-Peter Floyd – with no regard for his personal safety – pursued the suspect and fired. Officer Natalie Eucce (Officer Carr’s partner) and Sergeant James Jennings joined Corporal Floyd in pursuing the suspect and fired as well. The suspect was pronounced dead on the scene. It is very likely more officers would have lost their lives that night, if it were not for the bravery of Corporal Floyd and Officer Eucce.

Sergeant Jason Thien of the Curry County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon

In Curry County, Oregon, Sergeant Jason Thien often works alone on his shift, where he services a 1,600-square mile county and more than eighty miles of the Pacific Coast Highway. Even so, he did not hesitate to give it his all when word came down of a widespread manhunt for a murder suspect, who was thought to be in Curry County. Working his contacts, combing property records, and using other investigative tools, he found his man. Thanks to Sergeant Thien’s dedicated efforts, he apprehended the subject, who will soon be facing charges.

Ceremony program

Innovations in Community Policing Category

Officers Phalon McFate of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Nevada

In 2017, Officer Phalon McFate developed Project Daybreak, an initiative used to address violent crime-hot spots in downtown Las Vegas neighborhoods. Since it started, Project Daybreak has significantly contributed to decreasing violent crime – down by fifty percent in these neighborhoods.  Through positive police interactions, Officer McFate was able to create transparency and build trust in neighborhoods, where these previously did not exist. The success of Project Daybreak is a direct result of Officer McFate’s passion and commitment to her community.

Officer Jesse Guardiola of the Tulsa Police Department, Oklahoma

Officer Jesse Guardiola is recognized for the Hispanic outreach program he has developed, which provides Survival Spanish Language training, and educates law enforcement and the community on the immigrant Hispanic culture. The program has received national recognition and is being promoted as a national model for Hispanic community outreach. Through his efforts, Officer Guardiola is building bridges and making a difference in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Detective Anthony Roberson of the Providence Police Department, Rhode Island

Detective Anthony Roberson is recognized for his use of community policing initiatives that build partnerships between law enforcement and local businesses to support underserved families.  The “Shop with a Cop” program has now served 300 children.  The “Handshake Initiative” has grown from 40 to 200 mentors, and is benefiting families of all backgrounds, across the city. Through these programs, Detective Roberson is giving back to his community, increasing partnerships and building bridges between law enforcement, families and businesses. 

Officer Jonathan Plunkett of the Irving Police Department, Texas

In August 2016, after the murder of five police officers in Dallas, Officer Jonathan Plunkett began working on an outreach initiative to bridge the gap between the African-American community and law enforcement. The idea was to connect with the community in places where residents would feel comfortable, and be open to sharing their concerns and engaging in dialogue. Officer Plunkett knew that barbershops would work. The initiative, which began with one shop, has now increased to 16 shops, and is known as ShopTalk. Through ShopTalk, Officer Plunkett has created a way to build mutual trust and respect between law enforcement and community members who had not been reached with traditional police outreach efforts.

Detective Kathleen Lucero of the Isleta Tribal Police Department, New Mexico

Isleta Tribal Police Department Detective Kathleen Lucero is recognized for community policing initiatives that provide resources to impoverished youth, and build connections between law enforcement and the community.  Through the annual Reaching for A Star initiative, Detective Lucero provides gifts and food to more than 150 children and their families during the holiday season.  Through her Camp Courage program, 60 children participate in a youth camp every summer. Detective Lucero’s on and off-duty dedication cannot be overstated and has made a true impact on the community. 

Officer Troy Quick of the Conyers Police Department, Georgia

Officer Troy Quick is making a lasting impact on the youth within his community. As a School Resource Officer at Rockdale County High School, Officer Quick has been able to help a number of students leave gang life. Whether it is though the mentoring sessions he coordinates for students, donating items to families in need, or just taking an interest in student’s daily lives, Officer Quick is a true example of dedication and service.

Criminal Investigations Category

Detective William Maldonado of the Suffolk County Police Department, New York

Detective William Maldonado was assigned to assist in the investigation of the disappearance of a young man. Intelligence gathered by Detective Maldonado indicated the missing boy was a murder victim of MS-13. Without the detective’s work, along with his team, the murder spree would no doubt have continued. Instead, several dozen people were arrested, charged with seventeen murders, the Suffolk County MS-13 Sailor Clique was eliminated, and several other cliques were disrupted. Detective Maldonado accomplished this while battling cancer, and rarely missed work. He succumbed to his illness in 2018, but not before arrests were made in the cases.

Detectives George Duarte and Jeffrey Richards of the Providence Police Department, Rhode Island

Providence Detectives George Duarte and Jeffrey Richards are recognized for their extraordinary investigative work in solving an abduction and sexual assault case of a fourteen-year-old girl. Their investigation not only solved that case, but also led to solving several other cases of sexual assault by the same suspect. Because of their work, the detectives were able to have this vicious predator removed from the community, victims of other unreported crimes were helped, and justice was brought to a number of other victims.

Detectives Sandra Marquez and Kenneth Sealy of the Aventura Police Department, Florida

Aventura Detectives Sandra Marquez and Kenneth Sealy are recognized for their investigative work in solving several high-dollar fraud schemes. During an intense investigation involving a large credit card fraud ring operating in south Florida, the detectives identified approximately $194,000 in fraudulent transactions and seized another $218,000.  Another case involved money laundering, which included a loss of almost $4 million over three years. The detectives are continuing this important work in coordination with several federal agencies.

Field Operations Category

Officers Evan Jurgensen, Nicholas Kelly, Rachel Mynier, and John Yenchak of the Prince William County Police Department, Virginia

In November 2018, the Prince William County Police Department received a call reporting an Active Shooter. Within minutes of responding to the scene, Officer Evan Jurgensen, Officer Nicholas Kelly, Officer Rachel Mynier and Officer John Yenchak had to take cover from gunfire. Officer Mynier noticed movement on the roof of a residence and transmitted a warning to incoming units, and in doing so saved lives. After the shooter ignored officers’ commands, he was eventually struck and fell to the ground. Although officers feared a possible second shooter, they exposed themselves to harm once again to extract the shooter for medical treatment, and also pulled an occupant from the residence to safety. The heroism demonstrated by each officer represents true courage.

Deputy Richard Hassna of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, California

Alameda County Deputy Richard Hassna is being recognized for his innovative use of Small Unmanned Aerial Systems for public safety operations. In 2018, during the deadly Camp Fire in Butte County, Deputy Hassna led more than 16 unmanned aerial vehicle teams, and conducted 517 flights in two days, taking more than 70,000 images. These images were stitched into a map that allowed residents to see the damage to their property, without being exposed to danger. This was likely the largest response of small unmanned aerial systems to a disaster scene in U.S. history. Deputy Hassna has also developed tactics and training for this technology that has redefined high-risk tactical operations and air support as we know it.

Deputy Ross Jessop of the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, Montana

Deputy Ross Jessop is being recognized for his action and dedication to duty in saving the life of a kidnapped baby. In July 2018, the Sheriff’s Office received a call about a man with a gun, who had fled in a vehicle with his girlfriend’s infant son. One hour later the suspect appeared back on the scene without the baby. The suspect said he had killed and buried the baby; but his irrational statements led investigators to search for the missing child.  During Deputy Jessop’s search in more than a million acres of forest, he heard a faint whimper, and found a baby boy lying face down. To his surprise, the baby was alive and uninjured. There is no question Deputy Jessop’s instincts, perseverance, and dedication saved the child’s life.

Officers Aaron Bates and Alexander Stotik of the Cohasset Police Department, Massachusetts

Cohasset Officers Aaron Bates and Alexander Stotik are being recognized for their courageous actions that saved the life of a woman who was being brutally attacked. The officers were dispatched to a home where neighbors complained of loud noises and a fight.  After investigating, the officers heard a muffled scream, kicked in a locked door, and saw what they described as an “attempted murder in progress.” After a heated struggle, the officers were able to subdue the suspect, place him under arrest, and get medical attention for the victim. The officers exhibited extraordinary valor, bravery, courage, and professionalism in the face of extreme danger that would no doubt have resulted in the murder of the victim.

Ceremony program

Innovations in Community Policing Category

Sergeant Sean Crotty of the Little Egg Harbor Police Department, New Jersey

Little Egg Harbor Sergeant Sean Croddy is the school resource officer at the local high school. While his main responsibility is the protection of the school community, he also takes on the greater role of getting involved with students, shaping the way they view law enforcement, and helping mold them into community members capable of achieving their full potential. Sergeant Croddy also developed numerous other community policing initiatives where the whole community has become a network of sharing, collaborating, and helping one another.

Detective John Rastetter of the Canton Police Department, Ohio

In 2016, Canton was in the midst of an opioid crisis, Canton Detective Michael Rastetter  became the point person for the newly created Stark Outreach Support team, a quick response team made up of a nurse, a social worker, and a vice detective. In 2017, the team engaged 70 overdose survivors and 33 family members, connected 30 individuals with rehabilitation services and provided 19 Naloxone kits; seeing a reduction of nearly 60 percent of opioid-related overdose deaths.

Officer Laurie Reyes of the Montgomery County Police Department, Maryland

Montgomery County Officer Laurie Reyes identified a problem: officers seemed to be searching for the same critically missing people repeatedly.  In response, she initiated the “Project Lifesaver” program as a new way to assist in tracking individuals who wander.  She also recognized that a prevention component was missing. As a result, Officer Reyes created a nationally recognized program to promote awareness and safety of these at-risk populations. Officer Reyes identified a problem and developed a creative solution, which had a significant impact on the public safety and public trust.

Criminal Investigations Category

Officer Megan Freer of the Middleton Township Police Department, Pennsylvania

In the summer of 2017, a 19-year old man went missing near Middletown Township. Officer Megan Freer began an intensive investigation into a missing person case, which eventually led to the discovery of a horrific quadruple homicide in a nearby town.  Officer Freer’s incredible investigative efforts led to the arrest of two 20-year-olds, who were ultimately charged with murder of the four victims – bringing closure to their families and the community of Middletown.

Detective Andrew Beuschel, Jr. of the Evesham Township Police Department, New Jersey  

In 2017, a father called the police when he found his 15-year old daughter unresponsive; an ambulance transported the victim to the hospital where she subsequently died from a heroin overdose two days later. Evesham Township Detective Andrew Beuschel investigated the case, and was able to locate the person suspected of selling the heroin. Detective Beuschel’s persistence led to arrest warrants for possession of heroin, distribution of heroin, and ultimately, strict liability of the suspect for the drug induced death of the victim.

Trooper Joel D. Follmer of the Pennsylvania State Police

In 2016, an assailant broke into a woman’s house, assaulting, kidnapping, and raping her prior to leaving her in a cornfield near her residence. Pennsylvania State Trooper Joel Follmer worked tirelessly on the case using innovative investigative techniques. Trooper Follmer’s diligent efforts spearheaded an investigation over 18 months long and led to the identification of a prison guard as a serial rapist with assaults dating back to 1994.

Field Operations Category

Sergeant Girard Tell III and Sergeant Ryan VanSyckle of the Pleasantville Police Department, New Jersey

Since 2016, Pleasantville Sergeants Girard Tell and Ryan VanSyckle have consistently led the department in arrests and drug seizures by their dogged persistence to find and dismantle street gangs.  A regional investigation netted more than 100 felony indictments against the South Side Mob street gang. Their tireless drive to remove the most dangerous and violent offenders has had a significant impact on the community, including a steady downward trend of gun violence and a 55 percent decrease in confirmed shooting calls for service.

Deputy Ned Nemeth of the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, Nevada

Washoe County Deputy Ned Nemeth has demonstrated active exceptional performance in field operations. As a full time K9 handler, he works highway interdiction, in which he has successfully reduced illegal operations in the past year along the I-80 corridor, including seizing large amounts of marijuana, methamphetamine, and prescription opioid pain pills. Deputy Nemeth pushes out quality information to his regional contacts, because of the belief that jurisdictional sharing will cur-tail organized drug trafficking.

Detective Thomas Curley of the Wilmington Police Department, Delaware

Over the past 14 years, Wilmington Detective Thomas Curley has provided outstanding efforts in conducting criminal investigations to protect the community from gangs and violent crime, including the first successful illegal gang prosecution in Delaware. He possesses the ability to seek out and successfully talk with witnesses to develop leads, and works tirelessly during complex investigations. Detective Curley is dedicated to his job and strives for justice for the victims of violent crimes.

Officers Jeremiah Beason, Patrick Burke, Monty Fetherston, and Steve Morris, Jr. of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Nevada

In October 2017, a lone gunman fired into a crowd of 22,000 concertgoers attending a country music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, killing 58 people and injuring over 850 more. Las Vegas Metropolitan Officers Jeremiah Beason, Patrick Burke, Monty Fetherston, and Steve Morris were the first four first responders to react. These officers rescued people, cleared the surrounding rooms near the shooter, and secured the perimeter; by running towards the danger, they saved countless lives.

Officers Jose Arriaga, Ruben Avalos, Carlos Escobar, Randy Jreisat, Arthur Meza, Ashley Mitchell, David Nick, Jr., Adrian Nunez, Christian Salas, and Solly Samara of the Los Angeles Police Department, California

In September 2017, the Department created the MacArthur Park Task Force to conduct uniformed patrols in and around MacArthur Park. Officers Jose Arriaga, Ruben Avalos, Carlos Escobar, Randy Jreisat, Arthur Meza, Ashley Mitchell, David Nick, Jr., Adrian Nunez, Christian Salas, and Solly Samara work on this task force focused on restoring order to the community around the park with constant law enforcement and community involvement to combat all crime and quality of life issues. Their work is directly responsible for a 40 percent reduction of Part 1 Crimes and a 46 percent reduction of Violent Crimes, as well as restoring the park into a beautiful haven within the community.

Innovations in Community Policing Category

Officers Andy Dobbins and Curt Vajgrt of the Urbandale Police Department, Iowa

Officers Dobbins and Vajgrt helped develop and implement an education program for their local high school focused on the social issues and pressures young people face. The Culture of Integrity program teaches the importance of character, integrity and community and focuses on issues related to bullying, social media, personal safety and achieving success. The officers managed all the details, getting approval of the curriculum and teaching schedule, organizing the content of the workbooks, and co-teaching the classes. The program was so successful that two other schools requested it.

Sergeant Audrey Mazzuca of the Gainesville Police Department, Florida

After a disproportionate number of minority youth were being arrested in the community, Sgt. Mazzuca worked with local stakeholders to develop programs that encourage officers and school administrators to replace student arrests with alternatives such as counseling, life skills training, and other services.  Through Sgt. Mazzuca’s leadership, the kids developed trusting relationships with law enforcement resulting in a 79 percent decline in on-campus arrests in 2015.

Community Liaison Officers Lawrence E. Geis and Scott B. Clinger of the Columbus Division of Police, Ohio

Community Liaison Officers Clinger and Geis have worked diligently to address residents’ and business owners’ concerns regarding a rash of criminal activity and their success has led to an examination of several problem hotels and businesses in Columbus.  The officers were instrumental in the adoption of a new city ordinance establishing safety rules for hotels and motels.  As a result, crime and calls for service at hotels and motels have decreased significantly.

Criminal Investigations Category

Detective Jessie Gonzales of the Tohono O’odham Police Department, Arizona

Assigned to crimes against children and sex crimes, Detective Gonzales is sometimes the only detective investigating these cases on the Tohono O’odham reservation, which covers three counties.  He consistently goes above and beyond the call of duty when conducting investigations.  He recently solved two rape cases, one involving a 10-year-old victim, and another involving a domestic violence stabbing case.  In these and all of his other cases, he consistently goes beyond the call of duty when conducting investigations to make the victims feel heard and believed.

Detectives Adam Beha and Joseph Milewczik of the Chesapeake Police Department, Virginia

Detectives Beha and Milewczik conducted a long-term investigation involving a heroin distribution organization that funneled large amounts of heroin to the streets of Hampton Roads.  Due to the organization’s affiliation with a high-level street gang, the case became an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation involving local and federal law enforcement partners.  Their work led to the arrest of all the federal targets, and the detectives continue to work the case, which will likely lead to more dangerous narcotics distributors being identified, investigated and arrested.

Senior Officer Kimberly Miller of the Houston Police Department, Texas

In April of 2015, a woman was beaten, sexually assaulted, and robbed. Senior Police Officer Kim Miller dissected the incident with skills gained in her 30 years of investigative work, leading to the arrest of three individuals suspected of involvement in the incident and additional assaults. Miller’s dedication led these cases to successful conclusions. Tireless in pursuit of the predators, she treated the victims with compassion and is a leader in her department. 

Field Operations Category

Detective Greg Felton of the Glenn County Sheriff's Office, California

Detective Felton works with multiple agencies to strengthen collaboration and integrate services while handling complex criminal investigations. During the past year, Detective Felton has been a driving force and team leader in the creation of the Glenn County System-wide Mental Health Assessment and Response Team, a collaborative multiagency team that responds to incidents such as school or community threats, suicidal behavior, and bullying. His ability to remain calm in any situation helps to quickly resolve a crisis situation. 

Officer Bennie L. Evans of the Alexandria Police Department, Virginia

Officer Evans embraces community policing during field operations and through voluntary participation in projects for the police department and local nonprofit organizations. A lead instructor in the department’s crisis intervention team, he provides officer training in suicide intervention, substance abuse, and other issues. He also serves as the department’s homeless outreach liaison. He works to help residents in need and has helped build trust in the communities he serves. Officer Evans has successfully de-escalated numerous violent and attempt suicide calls for service.

Officer JoAnn Walker of the San Francisco Police Department, California

Officer JoAnn Walker has volunteered for extensive training on hostage negotiation, crisis counseling, and suicide prevention, dedicating her own time and resources to advance her expertise and educate her colleagues in crisis service support. Thanks to her initiative and advocacy, crisis counselors are better equipped to respond to people in need, and the relationship between law enforcement and the local community has improved.


Updated May 3, 2024