An officer with a record number of drunken driving arrests, school employees who evacuated students during a fire and a rather industrious police cadet were among those recognized Tuesday by the Lodi Police Department.
The annual awards are determined by a seven-member committee of police employees who investigate nominations made by other department members.
"We want to make sure these awards mean something," Chief David Main said during the ceremony, attended by about 75 people.
Those awarded were:
- Officer Eric Versteeg, who received the Rick Cromwell Award, given to "an officer who goes above and beyond in traffic safety," Main said. It's named in honor of the motor officer who died when a vehicle pulled out in front of his motorcycle in December 1998.
A former dispatcher, Versteeg has been an officer for three years, and in each one he has made more drunken driving arrests than any other officer. He wasn't assigned to a special task force and simply made the arrests while handling the normal duties of a graveyard patrol officer, Main said.
His first year, Versteeg made 39 such arrests. The next year, he made 59 arrests. And last year, he had 81 DUI arrests, including four in one shift, including handling all the paperwork involved in an arrest. He was recently recognized by Mothers Against Drunk Driving for having more DUI arrests than any other officer in a number of surrounding counties.
- Cpl. Scott Bratton was named Officer of the Year. In his decade of working in Lodi, he spent part of that time as a school resource officer at Lodi High School.
He got to know many of the students, and in 2004 he solved the homicide of student Adrian Cortez. Bratton's rapport paid off, and he even got a confession in the case, Main said. Four suspects were arrested, and all pleaded guilty before trial.
In his free time, Bratton has also coached a number of sports at the school. One athlete was teased because of his teeth problems; Bratton knew the youth's parents couldn't afford dental care, so the officer talked to a number of dentists and found some willing to offer free services.
Bratton previously received a medal of valor for his role in the shooting of suspect Jacob Torres, and was also previously recognized for saving the life of a stabbing victim.
He also started a scholarship in Cromwell's name, is involved with an annual Christmas tree give-away, has served as president of the police officers' association and trains new officers.
"I can't think of anybody more deserving of this award," Main said.
- Acting Records Supervisor Heather Kirschenman was named Employee of the Year. She started with the department four years ago and now acts as supervisor of a department that is very short-staffed, Main acknowledged.
That shortage means that she carries a full work load in addition to handling supervisor duties.
Additionally, last year the department switched to a new records management system that has required extensive training and trouble-shooting. Kirschenman encounters many of the countless problems that still arise, working with the program's manufacturer to fix them.
Main praised her for her positive attitude.
- The records division received a unit citation, an award that Main noted is not given each year.
He noted that all records employees, including Kirschenman, have dealt with the new computer program in the past year. In the meantime, they handle all sorts of other requests each day, many from upset citizens.
"When you come into the police department, they're the first person the public deals with," Main said.
"All the different contacts they have, all the different ranges of emotions they deal with, and they never get complaints for it."
- Cadet Sgt. Daniel Bristow, managed to volunteer 652 hours last year even while maintaining a full college course load, working part-time and being involved in his fraternity. He was named Volunteer of the Year.
He's volunteered for the department for five years, moving up to cadet sergeant four years ago. He helps recruit and train new cadets, organizes their service and also spends plenty of his own time helping keep logs at crime scenes and providing traffic control at crashes.
He is graduating in May from University of the Pacific with a degree in business, and is hoping to continue at the school for his master's degree.
Main noted that Bristow is the only cadet who stops by the chief's office merely to say "hello," something he does in other offices around the station on a regular basis.
- Management Analyst Jeanie Biskup was given a Meritorious Service Award for the many duties she handles.
She oversees the volunteer Partners, recently took over the community improvement department, helps with the budget and writes grants, successfully getting federal funding.
"She's one of those people you can give a general assignment to and she'll run with it and do a great job," Main said, noting that she recently researched and put together an entire presentation on mobile food vendors for a City Council meeting.
- Larson Elementary School teacher Christopher Funge and janitor Troy Morgan, who maintained calm and order when a student intentionally set a fire in a second-floor hallway.
The April 22, 2009, fire caused panic among students, but Funge and Morgan were able to put it out with fire extinguishers before firefighters could even arrive.
The halls filled with smoke, but Funge coordinated the evacuation of all students, getting them safely out of the building.
Meanwhile, Morgan went back inside the school, going from room to room to make sure no student had been left behind. Morgan needed treatment at the hospital for smoke inhalation, Main said.
"They acted heroically and made sure that every student at that school was taken care of," the chief said.
- Capt. J.P. Badel was surprised to receive the Chief's Award, the only one determined solely by Main.
In his 22 years with the department, Badel has handled a number of different tasks, often leading different units ranging from the honor guard to the traffic office. He also took over the training program, revamping the way new officers are evaluated.
His community involvement include the Lodi Boys and Girls Club, and he has made a number of positive changes there, Main said.
"He always tried to make sure the people in his unit do a good job, and have the resources to do so," Main said.
"You can give him a task and he gets it done — and at the same time he always keeps his desk clean," he added with a laugh.