Fighting crime in 2017 means striking the right balance between what still works and what technology can offer and knowing what new laws can provide and what they might – unintentionally – take away.
La Habra Police Chief Jerry Price touted his department’s ability to remain effective in the ever-changing landscape as he spoke at the 2017 Annual Police Awards and Commendations Ceremony, held June 13 at the La Habra Community Center, then backed it up with a series of citations and medals that saluted high-end police work.
“As an organization, we must continue to evolve,” he said. “Developing new crime-fighting strategies when we see crime vary in methodology, thinking ‘outside of the box’ and trying to stay ahead are key elements in fighting crime in these modern times. Just as laws change, sometimes in our favor and sometimes against us, we must deal with the outcome, regardless of the cause and effect.”
Price also took the opportunity to hail the success of programs like the LHPD’s bicycle patrol, Coffee with a Cop, the English and Spanish-language versions of the Citizens’ Academy, the annual Open House, National Night Out, the Cool Cops program and the Law Enforcement Clubs conducted at the city’s two middle schools.
“These events provide us the opportunity to have direct communication and involvement with community members of all ages and from all socio- and economic groups … and have given hundreds of residents the opportunity to work alongside our officers in a team effort in making our community a better place to live and work.”
La Habra PD’s award winners included Officer Justin Cassidy, whose arrest of 35 drunk drivers over the course of the year earned him the Osornio Award, given in honor of the department’s only fallen officer, Michael Osornio, who was killed by a drunk driver in 1994.
A Career Service Medal was given to Sgt. Dave Crivelli for 20 years of service, while Chief Price, Sgt. Ron Hurst, and Capt. George Johnstone were each recognized for having completed 25 years of service, and recently retired Ofc. Chris Koelber was honored for his 30 years of service.
The Distinguished Service Medal was presented to Ofc. Travis Nelson, whose keen observations thwarted two suspects armed with burglary tools, a specialized key used to open ATM machines, and digital access card readers from stealing information off of ATM and credit cards.
General Investigations Sgt. Jose Quirarte was a recipient as well, for the arrest of an armed suspect wanted in connection with several armed robberies that had occurred.
Parking Enforcement Ofc. Paul Guerra was similarly honored. Following a hit-and-run accident that left a bicyclist seriously injured, Guerra knew there was only a vague description of the vehicle involved, but took the initiative to do an extensive search utilizing Google Earth and scan the various vehicles that happened to be photographed that day when the Google mobile truck had imaged the street. He was able to identify a vehicle, then secure a partial plate number that eventually led to locating the vehicle.
Motor Ofc. Sumner Bohee, who took the initial report, utilized the information Guerra provided and it lead to an arrest warrant being issued for the suspect. Bohee’s efforts earned him a Chief’s Citation.
Bohee, however, was only one of many who received a Chief’s Citation.
Ofc. Kevin Love, Ofc. Steven Highley, Ofc. Phil Principe and Sgt. Ron Hurst were recognized for negotiating the peaceful surrender of a mentally ill man who had barricaded himself in a neighbor’s house. They were later able to get the man into treatment.
Corp. Tonya Sauer, Ofc. Nathan Garcia, Ofc. Justin Braasch, Det. Kim Razey and Ofc. Kevin Love received a citation for their efforts on a child welfare call that ultimately resulted in the seizure of more than 20 firearms — some stolen — from the home of a convicted felon.
Det. Noah Daniels, Ofc. Ricardo Rodriguez and Lt. Mel Ruiz were honored as well. Each, through their community outreach efforts, helped to further build lasting bonds with the residents they serve.
When a distraught parent called to report a man taking inappropriate photos of her young child, CO Christina Argott was able to calm the upset mother, getting vital information from her that led to the arrest of a registered sex offender within minutes of the call.
CO Gina Bernardini demonstrated there is more to dispatching than simply answering calls. A confused elderly woman mistakenly called 911 instead of her pharmacy. During the course of the conversation that followed, Bernardini sensed there might be a bigger issue. She sent officers to the woman’s home for a follow-up welfare check. They discovered she required emergency medical treatment and requested that paramedics respond, possibly saving the woman’s life.
A special Citizen’s Citation was awarded to Mr. Wesley Higgins for his prompt reporting of a commercial burglary in progress and his assistance in locating the suspects involved in the crime.
Ofc. Jose Sanchez, Jr. was awarded a Chief’s Citation in connection with his handling of the pursuit that followed and his work connected with the arrest of one of the suspects involved.
The evening concluded with Ofc. Michael Costanzo being awarded the department’s Medal of Courage. Ofc. Costanzo, along with Corp. Dave Morrison, Det. Corp. Scott Irwin and Det. Craig Hentcy had been working on a burglary. The victim, a law enforcement officer from another agency, had his wallet, containing credit cards, taken as well as his badge and a handgun.
The credit cards had been used at a La Habra business later in the day and one suspect was arrested. After interviewing the subject in custody, the officers were able to determine the identity of the burglary suspect.
As they awaited the completion of a search warrant for his residence in a neighboring city, Costanzo spotted the suspect driving in the area and attempted to make a car stop. The suspect initially failed to yield.
When he finally stopped, he fled on foot. Costanzo pursued him.
During the foot pursuit, the suspect turned on Costanzo with a gun in his hand. Costanzo drew his duty weapon and fired at the suspect, striking him once. The suspect was subsequently placed under arrest and transported to an area hospital.
Morrison, Irwin and Hentcy received a Chief’s Citation for their efforts, as did Lead Communications Operator Kristen Kernohan and Communications Operator Elissa McDougall, for their composure and professionalism directing officers to the scene of the shooting and coordinating assistance efforts.