Behind the Badge snares three awards in OC Press contest


Stories about how being at Ground Zero inspired an officer’s life’s work, how a field training officer turned a hunch into breaking a big case, and about the heart and fortitude of an all-women’s running team propelled Behind the Badge to recognition from the Orange County Press Club for stories covered in the past year.

On June 13, Behind the Badge won three awards at the Orange County Press Club’s 2023 Excellence in Journalism Contest, in another year of strong recognition of the work that appeared in the online publication.

This year’s contest brings the total number of awards to 63 since Behind the Badge began entering the contest nine years ago, despite the contest severely limiting the number of categories in which the publication is allowed to compete.

Greg Mellen picked up a second place award in the Best Feature category for Sept. 11 attacks inspire officer to ‘make sure it never happens again’, about Bradley Saunders, who witnessed the terrorist attacks while standing at the base of the World Trade Center. The tragedy inspired the then officer-turned-financier to return to law enforcement and a post-retirement career as a coordinator with the Terrorism Liaison Unit with the Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center (OCIA).

Officer Joseph Cossack, a field training officer with the Tustin Police Department, holds some of the 78 keys and key fobs found in possession of the suspect in an auto theft.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Cathi Douglas’ feature on Joseph Cossack won third place in the Best News Feature category. Her story told of how a routine traffic stop turned into a most unusual discovery. While searching the trunk, Cossack came across a cache of car keys that were later linked to a string of 78 automobile car thefts.

Mellen also received an honorable mention in the News Feature category for “Baker to Vegas endurance run concludes with a flourish for rookie team,” which covered the gritty performances of local law enforcement agencies in the annual Baker to Vegas 120-mile relay race. Headlining the event locally was the debut effort of an all-female running team from the Santa Ana Police Department.

Runners take off during the Baker to Vegas relay race between law enforcement agencies.
Photo by Greg Mellen/Behind the Badge