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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
On Tuesday, September 18, 2018, the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General, along with other Department of Justice (DOJ) officials, honored the 25 award recipients of the second annual Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Policing. Surrounded by family, friends, colleagues, and distinguished guests, recipients were honored by DOJ leadership and the nation. Stories of innovation, heroism, and exceptional policing were shared as each award recipient walked across the stage. Although the recipients represent diverse communities with different stories, they share a commitment to public safety. These law enforcement officers represent the best of the policing profession.
The Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Policing recognizes individual state, local, or tribal sworn rank-and-file, non-supervisory police officers and deputies for exceptional efforts in innovative policing strategies, criminal investigations, and field operations that have proven effective in enforcing our laws.
The award highlights three areas: (1) Innovations in Community Policing, (2) Field Operations, and (3) Criminal Investigations. Within each category, at least one award is given to law enforcement agencies serving small, medium, and large jurisdictions.
The following sections provide a snapshot of the 25 award recipients. Their full narratives are collected in the Compendium of Award Recipients and you can watch the full video of the presentation of the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Policing. Some recipients’ stories are highlighted in this special issue of the Community Policing Dispatch.
From maintaining school safety to fighting opioids and addressing missing persons, the three 2018 award recipients in the category of Innovations in Community Policing engage in significant problem-solving activities, build productive community relationships, and implement new initiatives.
Little Egg Harbor (New Jersey) Sergeant1 Sean Crotty sees his responsibility as a school resource officer as not only protecting the youth in the local high school, but helping to shape the next generation of youth into productive community members. He developed a successful community policing web, helping foster an entire community network of sharing, collaborating, and helping one another. Read Sergeant Crotty’s own words in “Leading by Example: Building Relationships with Youth.”
Canton (Ohio) Detective Michael Rastetter leads the Stark Outreach Support (SOS) team to address the opioid crisis in his community. Detective Rastetter’s compassion, professionalism, leadership, and commitment have contributed to a nearly 60 percent reduction in opioid-related overdose deaths in 2017. This community policing approach is recognized statewide as an example of a successful collaboration between law enforcement and the community.
Using critical problem-solving skills, Montgomery County (Maryland) Officer Laurie Reyes developed the Autism, Intellectual Developmental Disabilities, and Alzheimer’s Outreach Program. By focusing proactively on this vulnerable population, Officer Reyes is saving lives and ensuring that individuals who frequently wander are found more quickly. Her work not only benefits Montgomery County, but is becoming nationally recognized as a model for promoting awareness and safety through education, outreach, follow-up, empowerment, and response.
The three 2018 award recipients in the category of Criminal Investigations solved difficult cases and conducted comprehensive investigations by using creative and collaborative investigation techniques.
Middleton Township (Pennsylvania) Officer Megan Freer responded to a missing person report for a 19-year-old man that led to an intensive investigation of missing teens in her county. The investigation led to the discovery of the bodies of four young men buried on a farm and the arrest on murder charges of two cousins who lived there. Her determination led to this discovery; if not for her tremendous effort, there would have been no closure for the families of the missing young men.
The tragic death of a 15-year-old girl of a heroin overdose led Evesham Township (New Jersey) Detective Andrew Beuschel, Jr. to undertake a search for the suspected dealer. Using ingenious investigation techniques, Detective Beuschel worked with Facebook, the cellular phone company, and the victim’s friends and family to hone in on the suspect. His casework secured warrants for the arrest of the suspect on charges of possession of heroin, distribution of heroin, and strict liability for the drug-induced death of the 15-year-old victim.
In July 2016, an assailant broke into a woman’s house, assaulting, kidnapping, and raping her and leaving her in a cornfield near her residence. Assigned to the case, Pennsylvania State Trooper Joel D. Follmer suspected the assailant had some type of law enforcement or military training and worked tirelessly on the case using innovative investigative techniques. After more than18 months long, the investigation not only identified a prison guard as the assailant, but revealed him as a serial rapist with assaults dating back to 1994. He was arrested and is now pending trial.
Heroic, quick, or innovative police work distinguishes the 2018 award recipients in the category of Field Operations. By responding, partnering, problem solving, and engaging, these 19 individuals solved community problems, cleaned up the streets, and saved lives.
Since 2016, Pleasantville (New Jersey) Sergeants2 Ryan VanSyckle and Girard Tell III have consistently led the department in arrests and drug seizures, through their dogged persistence to seek out and dismantle criminal street gangs. Their untiring drive to remove the most dangerous and violent offenders from the street has had a significant impact on the criminal operating environment within the community, including a steady downward trend of gun violence and a 55 percent decrease in confirmed shooting calls for service. Sergeants VanSyckle and Tell combine community policing practices with their unique ability to leverage partnerships to ensure Pleasantville is safe from violence.
In 2017, Ohio County (West Virginia) Corporal Richard White III responded to a call for service regarding several people caught in the swift and dangerous waters of Wheeling Creek. Without regard for his own safety, he entered the heavy current repeatedly to save a 13-year-old girl and an adult woman caught in the undertow. Corporal White’s quick and selfless action helped save lives and exemplified true bravery.
Washoe County (Nevada) Deputy Ned Nemeth and his K9 partner Titus work highway interdiction; in the last year, they have dented illegal operations along the I-80 corridor, seizing marijuana, methamphetamine, and illegal prescription opioid pain pills. Deputy Nemeth pushes out quality information to his regional contacts, so that jurisdictional sharing can help curtail organized drug trafficking nationwide.
Over the past 14 years, Wilmington (Delaware) Detective Thomas Curley has made outstanding efforts in conducting criminal investigations to protect the people of Wilmington from gangs and violent crime, including the first successful illegal gang prosecution in the State of Delaware, which was later upheld by the Delaware Supreme Court. Through his ability to seek out and successfully talk with witnesses to develop leads, he has provided much-needed justice to the victims of violent crimes.
Las Vegas Metropolitan (Nevada) Officers Jeremiah Beason, Monty Fetherston, Patrick Burke, and Steve Morris, Jr. were the first four responders to react during the tragic shooting at a country music festival in October 2017. These four officers rescued people, cleared the rooms surrounding the shooter, and secured the perimeter; by running toward the danger, they saved countless lives. Without the heroic and quick actions of these officers, the suspect would not have been stopped. Read Officer Burke’s in “Honor and Courage: Responding to Tragedy.”
The Los Angeles (California) Police Department’s MacArthur Park Task Force Officers Jose Arriaga, Ruben Avalos, Carlos Escobar, Randy Jreisat, Arthur Meza, Ashley Mitchell, David Nick, Jr., Adrian Nuñez, Christiana Salas, and Solly Samara worked to restore order to the community around MacArthur Park by applying constant law enforcement and community involvement to the area, addressing both crime and quality of life issues in the area. Their work is directly responsible for a 40 percent reduction in Part 1 Crimes and a 46 percent reduction in violent crimes in the zone, as well as for transforming the park and its surrounding neighborhood from its former blight to a clean, beautiful, sprawling park.
Nazmia Comrie, Senior Program Specialist
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