Among the special guests was mayor Geno Martini, who said, “We recognize some of our citizens that have done things, our police officers, so this is a good event and I don’t like to miss these as it’s something positive for a change.”
Chief Steve Keefer was master of ceremonies and he began with the Officer of the Year award, which went to 13-year veteran officer Tom Crouse.
“It’s a huge honor of all the sworn officers to be selected as the Officer of the Year,” he said. “It is a career goal that one should have and I’m very honored and fortunate to receive it today.”
Among his accomplishments was gathering old cell phones for the department to give to victims of domestic violence. This allows these people to call 911 in case of an emergency.
Next was veteran dispatch supervisor Maureen “Mo” Dyette, who was named the Non-Sworn Employee of the Year. She came to the department with 16 years of experience and Chief Keefer said Dyette has worked hard to help those on her shift, to improve the center and to act as an advocate for the center.
“It’s very humbling to be selected and it’s overwhelming,” she said. “I’ve got a great group of dispatchers I work with that have supported me and have helped me be a good supervisor.”
The first Medal of Valor went to officer Jason Edmonson, who risked his own safety to confront an armed suspect who seemed ready to shoot a victim lying on the ground.
More Medals of Valor went to officers Scott Hale-Byron and Jace Thelin. Supporting them were dispatchers Joanna Bellamy and Laurie Howard, who were awarded Certificates of Commendation.
Keefer explained that these five were involved in a call regarding the stabbing deaths of Lana Stone and 2-year-old Connor Lawrence in November. As the officers handled the incident on scene, the dispatchers used the information gathered by officers to get assistance from Reno, which aided in stopping the suspect before he could flee the area.
Sgt. Charlie Alt, who couldn’t be present at the ceremony, also received a Medal of Valor.
Officer Chris Rowe received the Lifesaving Award while Lt. Pete Krall was awarded a Certificate of Commendation. They were involved in an incident in which they helped a female shooting victim, who was losing a large amount of blood, in time to prevent the loss of her arm. While Krall removed the shooter, Rowe applied a tourniquet that doctors later credited with saving the woman’s life and arm. Several medics from REMSA, led by supervisor Bryan Taylor, who helped train Rowe, presented both men with awards.
Asked about his award, Rowe said, “REMSA gave us top notch training. They came in, instructed the SWAT team, gave us training for gunshot purposes and that absolutely helped. This award means a lot and I’m extremely grateful that the lady survived, she was able to keep her arm and we were able to apprehend the suspect, as well.”
Detective Jason Woodard was awarded the Medal of Meritorious Service for his work in high profile and child abuse cases. His skill at interrogating has led him to instruct other officers in Nevada and California in this technique.
“I think it has a lot to do with old-fashioned police work and dedication to the case, the victims and a lot of it isn’t just to my credit but it has to do with the people I work with and help me,” Woodard said. “It’s very nice to be recognized by your peers and it means you’re probably doing things right. I’m very fortunate to work with the people I work with in the Sparks Police Department as it’s a great place to work and a great community.”
There were numerous Certificates of Commendation handed out to officers, dispatchers, records supervisors, a marketing team that produces the department’s calendar, an information technology specialist and a victim’s advocate. One non-department civilian was Sparks resident Bruce Garafola, who received commendation for his efforts in locating a robbery suspect, chasing him down and assisting officers with the man’s apprehension.
“It’s an outstanding day to pay respect to the great service the men and women of the Sparks Police Department have shown throughout the year,” Keefer said. “I’m proud to be affiliated with them and very honored to tell the stories that show bravery, compassion, professionalism and tenacity so it’s going to be a great day.”