Captain Pat McClurg, left, accepts a trophy from Chief Sill after being named the Liberal Police Department's 2012 Officer of the Year on Wednesday afternoon. L&T photo/Keeley Moree
By KEELEY MOREE
• Leader & Times
The Liberal Police Department, along with members of City Hall, the Liberal Fire Department, the Liberal City Commission and spouses of Liberal’s police force gathered for a special awards presentation Wednesday afternoon inside the Mid-America Air Museum.
Police Chief Al Sill presented the annual awards, as well as statistics on Liberal’s crime rates this past year.
Sill stressed that 2012 was a year full of both obstacles and success.
“We were short-handed at times throughout the year, we know our budget was strained throughout the year, and we were placed with restrictions from City Hall, and you guys stood up to that challenge and did so without complaint,” Sill said. “You did so without whining and not only did you meet that challenge, but I feel that you guys excelled.”
Sill’s first award, the Chief’s Award, was given to Captain David Odle and Deputy Fire Chief Skeety Poulton following the public tribute the two helped organized following the passing of commissioner Bob Carlile. The two also received Commendation Awards for their efforts.
A Commendation Award was also given to Captain Jon Antrim following a motorcycle crash which claimed the life of Chad McIntire, who worked as a paramedic and shift supervisor for the Seward County Emergency Medical Services. Sill said that Antrim came to the aid of EMS employees by watching over their night shift and allowing them to grieve the loss of their friend. Antrim then arrived for work the next morning to fulfill his regular duties. He also spent many hours with McIntire’s family in helping to coordinate funeral services. Sill added that Antrim grew up with Chad.
“This was a sign of true compassion for your colleagues,” Sill said. “I was so moved by this that to me, this deserves a lot of recognition. He did this all on his own, on his own time. It was his friend, but he did this with the utmost professionalism and I was absolutely in awe over how he managed to hold himself together and make all emergency service personnel proud.”
Commendation Awards were also given to more than a handful of officers, detectives and investigators who helped uncover several strings of burglaries throughout the year. Corporal Wade received an award as well for dedicating time to uncover a counterfeit scheme on his own.
Sill also announced that Captain David Odle, who went on to receive several awards, has been accepted into the FBI National Academy to attend in April 2013.
“This is huge, this is just as big for him as it is for the Liberal Police Department,” Sill said. “I was just as happy as he was to receive that letter.”
Detective Aaron Harvey also received a Commendation Award for training he has already completed in interviewing child victims in abuse cases. Sill commented that while these cases are the most difficult and stressful to work, Harvey has completed an astounding 40 interviews this year – each of which can take weeks to a month to complete.
A Commendation Award was also given to Sergeant Dallas Ryan for his work in coordinating with grant-writer Catherine Byrd to fund the purchase a piece of equipment used to map out crime scenes using laser technology. The tool saves extensive time for the department, which used pencil and paper mapping beforehand.
Staff member Catherine Byrd was recognized with a Meritorious Service Award for her work in applying for and securing grants for both the LPD and other agencies in the county – grants which Sill mentioned are hard to come by. Byrd’s work has resulted in several new technology systems, equipment upgrades and funding for the School Resource Officer program. In total since 2008, Sill said Byrd has gathered $713,625 dollars in funds for the department.
Meritorious Service Awards were also given to staff members and officers for their dedication to the National Night Out campaign and the Shop with a Cop program.
Finally, Chief’s Awards were given to Officer Josiah Smiddy for the most improvement in his running time, and to Sergeants Franka Jiminez, Jared Ratzlaff, Mark West and Dallas Ryan for their leadership on the force.
Officers and employees were also recognized for their years of service. The following milestones were recognized: Patsy Guinn, 15 years; Lieutenant Robert Rogers, 15 years; Captain David Odle, 15 years; Captain Jon Antrim, 10 years; Detective Josh Olson, 5 years; and Sergeant Mark West, 5 years.
Since 2003 the department has given an “Employee of the Year” and “Officer of the Year” award, which is decided on by an awards panel.
Crime Analyst Sandy Castaneda won employee of the year for her service. Sill noted that Castaneda has done a tremendous job in improving the flow of intelligence information throughout the department and partnering agencies across the state.
“Every business needs a Sandy,” Sill continued. “Because if you ever have a bad day, you can visit Sandy and she’ll brighten you up. She’s the most cheerful person to work with.”
Captain Pat McClurg won the officer of the year award, which he has been nominated for multiple times in the past.
“Captain McClurg set the standards for all his people to follow based upon the model of professionalism, accountability, commitment and teamwork,” Sill said. “He expects teamwork out of everyone, and he achieves this goal by setting the best example himself.”
Concluding the awards ceremony, Sill went on to mention a number of improvements the staff has made in reducing crime. Sill used the year 2006 as a benchmark, when Seward County was labeled as having the second highest crime rate in the state.
So far in 2012, Part 1 person crimes – which involve highly reported cases of homicide, rape, robbery, aggrevated battery, arson and other crimes – have risen by three percent, or two cases over last year. Since 2006, those figures are down by more than 47 percent. Part 1 property crimes and non-injury accidents have also been cut nearly in half since 2006.
To date, more than 2,000 cases have been cleared by the department and nearly a thousand are now inactivated. More than 172,000 patrol miles have been logged on the roadways and the K-9 unit has reached 40 deployments, made 6 arrests and seized more than 26 grams of evidence.
Sill also presented figures on citations, public presentations and programs aimed at serving the Liberal community.
“All in all we’ve been very busy. I don’t think anyone can argue that you guys don’t stay busy,” Sill concluded. “You guys are making this city proud of you and we are definitely proud of you. I encourage you to continue the great effort you guys have put forth the last few years.”