Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch today announced the recipients of the inaugural Attorney General’s Awards for Distinguished Services in Community Policing, acknowledging the exceptional work of 12 law enforcements officers from nine jurisdictions across the country.
“These inspiring men and women have been nominated for these awards by their colleagues and their communities,” said Attorney General Lynch at today’s ceremony. “Each of them embodies the very best of their profession. They understand that their role is not just to enforce the law, but to secure justice. They recognize that the badge they wear represents a sacred trust – one that they strive to fulfill each and every day. And they view the citizens they serve not as adversaries or potential opponents, but as partners, allies and neighbors. Everything that they do – whether it is an effort as large as running a youth outreach program, or a gesture as small as learning a neighbor’s name – makes a real difference in their communities and we are here to share our admiration and our gratitude.”
Each of the officers honored has demonstrated exceptional commitment to the principles of community 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 21st Century 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 Community Policing recognizes individual state, local or tribal sworn police officers and deputies 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 often goes unsung. To remedy this, Attorney General Lynch announced the creation of this award to honor the outstanding work of rank-and-file officers like those recognized today.
The individuals recognized today are listed below:
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.