Kalamazoo Gazette (Michigan)

Portage, MI

PORTAGE -- Portage Police Chief Richard White said there was no shortage of bravery, good police work and splendid deeds of service in the past year as he handed out the annual police department awards.

From saving a woman trapped in a frozen swamp in the dead of winter to stopping a water leak from ruining evidence, the Portage police top officers, staff and volunteers were honored Tuesday at Portage City Hall, with more than 50 family, friends and colleagues in the audience. The 22 award winners are chosen by a committee, which White said makes his job easier. "These are not easy decisions to make," he said. "But I can't think of a better way to show our people what we think of the job they are doing."

The following is the list of winners:

Officer of the Year

Officer Aaron Ham for overall outstanding work, especially his work on narcotics cases. White said the city decided to focus its drug efforts with its own officers rather than an areawide police team, and Ham stepped into the lead of that work.
Non-sworn Employee of the Year

Retired dispatcher Caroline Secondi, who is retired and on vacation and could not make the ceremony, was honored for helping improve the technology of the dispatch center.

Volunteer of the Year

Dr. Ron Selkow

Karen Foster, a reserve police officer, was credited with excellent years of service and "countless hours" helping with assignments, reserves duties and other work.

Meritorious Service

Officer Dereck Hess for overall performance, self-motivated work, supervising drug activities and volunteering his time, including acting as a firearms instructor.

Officer Kevin Gleesing for his work last January quelling a family disturbance in which a man assaulted a sibling, held family members in the home while armed and threatened their safety and that of officers. Gleesing was credited for getting the family members out of the house, making his way inside the home and talking the man into surrendering without further incident.

Officer Matt Slenk for responding to a fire at a home Feb. 17 and putting it out before it could further spread. His quick-thinking actions, White said, came as his own personal risk but saved the dwelling from likely destruction.

Sgt. Michael Collier, Officer Jerome Bryant, Officer Bryan Mayhew and Officer John Zesinger for saving the life of a woman who had wandered into a frozen swamp Nov. 23 at 1:30 a.m. and got lost and stuck. The four officers responded to her screams for help in the 18-degree weather, and freed her by carrying her on their back or passing her along like a chain. She recovered.

Education Achievement

Officer Nate Slavin for getting his criminal justice degree while still working full-time.

Letters of Commendation

Detective Matt Wolfe for breaking up a purse-stealing ring after following the suspects into Wal-Mart, posing as a customer and having a woman customer agree to leave her purse in her cart, which they grabbed and then were arrested. They had stolen several purses that day, White said.

Officers Aaron Ham and Dereck Hess for saving the lives of people who could have been hurt in a Meredith Avenue apartment fire last October. They were on patrol and arrived at the scene of the destructive fire, evacuating residents in the entire building, which was totaled. The Portage Fire Department also honored the pair for their work.

Officer Brett Stapert who made a routine traffic stop that resulted in the arrest and the closing of several theft cases in Kalamazoo and Allegan counties.

Officer Ken Magga and Officer Pat Buckley for outstanding work working on the sex offender management program in which they contacted more than 50 sex offenders in the community to make sure they were following the rules of the program. During that work they discovered and broke up a meth lab.

Officer Bryan Mayhew for his effort in drunken-driving enforcement, resulting in 27 driving while impaired arrests and 19 citations for minors in possession, both stats in which he led the department. He was also honored by the West Michigan chapter of Mothers Against Drunken Driving.

Dispatcher Marcia Johnson did a detailed search of the police department to find the missing heirloom earring of a woman who had been arrested and bonded out. The information center staff member combed the offices for the ring and found it in a small crevice in the evidence room.

Police service technician Jenny Ball who used her body to stop a flood into the evidence room caused by a plumbing leak last October in the jail. While it may not seem like much, White said, her saving of the evidence saved the police from losing the cases in court.

Police service technician Steve Lange, the property and evidence manager, who was lauded for his high ability to maintain and preserve the police department's evidence room. He received high praise also from a national association that gave the Portage Police Department its third accreditation this year.

Records clerk Cindy Jo Black, the senior records clerk, for her overall performance, excellent cooperative disposition and ease to work with and for being the "go-to person" for Portage police records. She also collected hundreds of reports to help the Kalamazoo County Mental Health Department.

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International Association for Property and Evidence
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