February 26, 2010

Officers, civilians cited for great police work


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John Patriquin /Staff Photographer;Friday. 01/22/2010. Officer Stephen Black receives the Officer of the Year Award from Chief James Craig as the Portland Police Dept. holds a recognition ceremony breakfast at the Eastland Park Hotel in Portland.

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John Patriquin /Staff Photographer;Friday. 01/22/2010. Artist and Portland Sgt. Bruce Coffin (in background) inveils his painting in memory of fellow officer Sgt. Richard Betters held by Sgt. Glen McGary and Sgt. Scott Pelletier as the Portland Police Dept. held a recognition ceremony breakfast at the Eastland Park Hotel in Portland.

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Staff Writer

To hear Officer Stephen Black tell it, bravery is just part of the job. So too is humility.

''I just try and go out there and do the right thing go out and help people,'' said Black, who was named Portland's Officer of the Year for 2009. He also received a commendation for bravery for his role in stopping a gunman's plot to shoot a man inside a downtown church.

''There's a lot of people I work with who deserve this every bit as much as I do,'' he said.

The Portland Police Department on Friday honored its outstanding employees, along with civilians and people from other police agencies. Some 130 people gathered at the Eastland Park Hotel for the department's fourth annual awards breakfast.

The awards included unit commendations, recognizing teams of officers who did exemplary work such as breaking up a drug trafficking operation in one neighborhood or solving a string of burglaries in another.

The department also issued individual awards to people like Officer Raymond Ruby, who launched a series of youth outreach initiatives, and Officer Jessica Brown, who coaxed a suicidal woman away from the ledge at Maine Medical Center's parking garage.

In all, the department issued 104 awards for work in 2009.

''Police officers often don't get the kind of recognition they so richly deserve,'' said Portland Police Chief James Craig, adding that the awards ceremony both honors the officers and informs the public about the work officers are doing.

The event also included the somber acknowledgement of the impact the late Sgt. Rick Betters had on the department, by retiring his supervisor's badge, No. 224.

''I wouldn't be standing here talking in this position without what Rick taught me,'' said Commander Michael Sauschuck. Betters died of natural causes last January.

Betters himself had won awards for heroism and merit in his 19-year career and was officer of the year in 1998.

Sgt. Bruce Coffin, an acclaimed painter, presented the department with his painting ''A Brother's Farewell,'' showing Betters' flag-draped coffin borne by his colleagues toward his funeral. Limited edition prints have been sold to raise money for an education fund for Betters' children, and Coffin presented two of the prints to his widow, Jessica Betters.

Sauschuck commended Coffin for being able to hold the tragedy so close as he worked on the painting over the past year while others tried hard to move on.

Friday's awards recognized the people behind the stories that made news in 2009. For instance, when police were searching for the killer of 18 year-old Zoe Sarnacki, Officer Jason King pulled over a friend of the suspect, who was on the phone with him. King talked to the suspect for 90 minutes and convinced him to reveal his location and surrender peacefully.

Others recognized for their work included:

n Four emergency dispatchers who coordinated what could have been a chaotic response to an officer-involved shooting in April;

n 13 officers who worked to arrest two people charged with stealing inspection stickers;

n Five officers who arrested several suspects on drug trafficking charges and one on charges he possessed 20 pipe bombs and was planning to use them on rival drug dealers.

Lt. Gary Hutcheson received the Sgt. Michael J. Wallace Award from the Superior Officers Association, given each year to an exemplary leader in the department. Hutcheson served as a sergeant on the late shift and swing shift, oversaw the traffic division and is the department's senior firearms instructor. He received the department's award for heroism in 1990 when he helped rescue the occupants of a burning building and was the city's officer of the year in 2001.

Citizen awards went to Lynda Morgan-Moore, who helped stabilize a crash victim until rescue workers arrived, and Steve Martin, who helped officers identify and locate two men passing counterfeit $20 bills, and others who support the work of the department on an ongoing basis.

An award was also presented to Melanie Kitchen, who was driving with her family last February when she spotted a toddler in a diaper along the road with no parent in sight.

Kitchen bundled up the 3-year-old, notified police and took the boy to the station, comforting him while officers located the child's guardian.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:


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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

John Patriquin /Staff Photographer;Friday. 01/22/2010. Jessica Betters, widow of Sgt. Richard Betters, holds two prints presented to her from a painting by Sgt. Bruce Coffin in memory of her husband as the Portland Police Dept. held a recognition ceremony breakfast at the Eastland Park Hotel in Portland.

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John Patriquin /Staff Photographer;Friday. 01/22/2010. The Sgt. Michael J. Wallace Award is presented to Lt. Gary Hutcheson by Sgt. Charles Libby as the Portland Police Dept. held a recognition ceremony breakfast at the Eastland Park Hotel in Portland.


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