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Lodi Police Chief Mark Helms salutes courage, decency among officers, volunteers

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Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013 12:00 am

Lodi Police Chief Mark Helms spoke of devotion, heroism, bravery and more during Wednesday's Lodi Police Department promotions ceremony.

Family, friends and fellow officers filled the Lodi Police Department's community room to watch as the department recognized several individuals and their unique devotion to their job and community.

Citizen's Service Award: Ray Barrera, Paige Budislesich and Susan Reyes

At around 10 a.m. on June 29, several people rushed to help a woman drowning in Lodi Lake.

Susan Reyes of Woodbridge and Ray Barrera of Stockton jumped into the lake and pulled the woman from the water. But the woman wasn't breathing.

Paige Budislesich, an EMT, immediately started performing CPR, and continued until emergency response crews arrived five minutes later.

Sadly, several days later, the woman died.

But because of Barrera, Reyes and Budislesich, the woman was alive long enough for her family to say goodbye.

"They stepped up and did the right thing," Helms said. "We all hear stories about people who turn their head or look the other way when someone is in need of help. These fine people ... went the other direction."

Meritorious Service Award: Joyce Defenbaugh and Sgt. David Griffin

Recently, Partners adviser Joyce Defenbaugh received the Presidents Award for Lifetime Achievement after volunteering more than 4,000 hours to the city of Lodi. Defenbaugh was again recognized for her unwavering dedication when Lodi police presented her with the Meritorious Service Award.

"Being a Partner is wonderful, and this is like icing on the cake," said Defenbaugh, who thanked co-workers and her husband.

While volunteering for 17 hours per week for the past five years, Defenbaugh has worked patrol, special events, sobriety checkpoints, in records and as a member of the 24-hour on-call team.

Sgt. David Griffin received the award for an incident "that makes me proud to be the chief," Helms said.

While performing an enforcement stop in December 2012, Griffin noticed that an Oroville family was stranded after Lodi police impounded their car. The family, including a 7-year-old child, had no money and no place to stay.

So Griffin rented the family a hotel room and gave them enough money to brave the situation.

"I did what any other person in this department would have done," said Griffin, who transferred to Lodi in 2000 after serving with the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department for three years.

Volunteer of the Year: Richard Linton

Richard Linton has logged more than 3,000 hours of volunteer work since joining the Partners Program in 2009.

Helms said that Linton is well-known around the department for his "enthusiasm, energy and positive attitude."

One of his favorite aspects of the job is working sobriety checkpoints, and Helms added that Linton often works late so he can be available for calls.

Linton said the city has supported him for many years, and joining the Partners Program was his way to give back.

Employee of the Year: Mary Valencia

Police records clerk Mary Valencia, a lifelong Lodi resident, worked 25 years for F&M Bank before joining the Lodi PD in 2009.

Helms said Valencia was selected for the award because she's "mastered every aspect of the records division," while not taking a single sick day in almost four years. She provides support for her co-workers and, as a fluent Spanish speaker, she's able to assist non-English-speaking citizens.

"It's your commendable work ethic and cooperative spirit that's earned you the distinction of Employee of the Year," Helms said.

Officer of the Year: Josh Redding

Sitting with his wife and two children after the awards ceremony, Josh Redding said he didn't expect to receive the Officer of the Year award.

"I'm not really a social butterfly around the department," Redding said. "To be recognized despite being a little reserved around the department is a huge honor."

Helms said Redding earned the award for his selfless dedication and commitment to his co-workers. In 2012, Helms made 121 arrests and issued 104 citations, statistics which Helms said are an indication of his commitment.

Redding serves with the K-9 unit and volunteers with youth sports teams and Cub Scouts.

Chief of Police Service Award: Leo Ramirez

Officer Leo Ramirez has served with the Lodi PD for 22 years. But last year came one of his most dangerous incidents.

While on patrol, Ramirez heard gunshots, then saw a man running and trying to hide something under his shirt. Ramirez didn't know the man had just shot and killed a 21-year-old, but began pursuing him on foot.

Several blocks away, Ramirez caught and arrested the man and found two handguns in his backpack.

"Without your quick response and decisive manner, an armed and dangerous suspect would likely have avoided capture and the crime may not have been solved," Helms said.

Ramirez said he hopes the arrest provided closure for the victim's family.

Helms also recognized the Special Investigations Unit for its work in 2012. The unit helped reduce gang-related crime by 50 percent last year and arrests by 8 percent.

Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at krisa@lodinews.com.

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