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An Honor and A Privilege
by Joshua H. Silavent
Dec 16, 2011 | 9171 views | 1 1 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/John Bryne - Sparks Patrol Officer Stephen Burns was given the Officer of the Year award for his service to the department and community. Among the acts Burns was recognized for was buying groceries with his own money for an elderly woman with dementia and helping catch a serial vehicle burglar.
Tribune/John Bryne - Sparks Patrol Officer Stephen Burns was given the Officer of the Year award for his service to the department and community. Among the acts Burns was recognized for was buying groceries with his own money for an elderly woman with dementia and helping catch a serial vehicle burglar.
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Tribune/John Byrne - Deputy Chief of Police Brian Allen (left) shakes hands with Chief Steve Keefer during Thursday’s Sparks Police Department awards ceremony at John Ascuaga’s Nugget.
Tribune/John Byrne - Deputy Chief of Police Brian Allen (left) shakes hands with Chief Steve Keefer during Thursday’s Sparks Police Department awards ceremony at John Ascuaga’s Nugget.
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SPARKS — More than 50 Sparks police officers and department personnel were honored Thursday for their courage and commitment to serving the public, with Patrol Officer Stephen Burns earning the Officer of the Year award.

Honored, privileged and surprised were words Burns used to describe his emotions after receiving the award during an annual ceremony at John Ascuaga’s Nugget casino.

Burns joined the SPD in 2001 after several years spent working for the Elko County Sheriff’s Office.

Police Chief Steve Keefer said Burns deserved the Officer of the Year award after several incidents had distinguished his service to the community.

For example, this year Burns bought groceries and other necessities with his own money for an elderly man with dementia. He also helped an elderly woman reconnect with her family.

Burns also was credited with identifying a suspect in a string of vehicle burglaries and also with helping improve relations between the SPD and owners of a local nightclub, where crimes were frequently reported.

Burns credits his father, Jack, with his accomplishments.

“He’s my idol,” he said.

Sgt. Jeanmarie Walsh and Officer Richard Gamwell were awarded the Medal of Valor for their brave and professional actions in responding to a shooting between rival motorcycle gangs at the Nugget during the Street Vibrations festival in September.

Walsh and Gamwell were first on scene that night and successfully apprehended individuals believed to have been involved in the altercation that left a Hells Angels boss dead.

Other award recipients include Det. Jennifer Vaught, who solved five missing persons cases this year; Officer Christopher Rowe, who was heralded for his life-saving actions following a deadly plane crash at the Reno National Championship Air Races in September; and Sgt. Charles Alt, who received the Lifesaving Award after rescuing a suicidal man found hanging by a rope from a tree.
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