The Westminster Police Department’s annual Awards Ceremony recognized the many lifesaving actions of officers in the field, as well as highlighting the work ethic displayed on a daily basis by the department’s sworn and professional personnel.
But this year’s ceremony, which showcased the department’s accomplishments from 2021, was a bit more dynamic than in past years.
Along with providing details of heroic acts and exceptional performances, the hundreds of family members, friends, and fellow officers who filled the Rose Center during the July 7 festivities could witness the actions of the officers from their body worn cameras displayed on a large screen.
Attendees watched sworn personnel administer Naloxone to save the lives of unconscious overdose victims and use CPR and other measures to save the life of a boy who had passed out because of a heart condition and laid motionless on the ground.
Awards were given for acts of courage, saving lives, going above and beyond, and taking drunk drivers off the road.
The department also recognized its rookie, officer, investigator, and supervisor of the year, part time employee of the year, and volunteer of the year.
Officer of the Year: Abel Jimenez
Officer Abel Jimenez is a field training officer, a member or the West County SWAT team, and the department’s rangemaster. He also worked a difficult shift during the 2021 calendar year, said Det. Nick Jezulin, who presented Jimenez with the award.
Jimenez’s shift primarily consisted of special assignment officers who were assisting in patrol due to staffing shortages. He also trained numerous officers throughout 2021.
“Officer Jimenez always kept a positive attitude and stayed very productive even though he worked on one of the busiest shifts,” Jezulin said. “Officer Jimenez has turned into a peer leader and is an asset to our department.”
Investigator of the Year: Alex Lopez
Detective Alex Lopez, who is currently assigned as a Special Investigations Detective, authored seven slap house search warrants in 2021.
These investigations are among the most complex because they always result in the arrest of several people, including gang members with large amounts of drugs and firearms. The cases usually involve confiscation of gaming machines.
Though Lopez is the only Special Investigations investigator, he keeps up with quality-of-life issues and Conditional Use Permit requests assigned to him. He also serves as a liaison to the FBI Asian Gang Task Force.
“Despite being pulled in several different directions, he is an extremely smart and dependable employee, has a great attitude, and is always willing to assist and develop other detectives any way he can,” Jezulin said.
Lopez is also a member of the West County SWAT team.
Rookie of the Year: Devon Ha
Officer Devon Ha was singled out for Rookie of the Year honors for several reasons. Jezulin said Ha is usually the first one out in the field and last one to return after a shift.
Ha often starts his shifts assisting with major calls and is always eager to learn. He never shortchanges his investigations and always puts forth the maximum effort, Jezulin said.
“Officer Ha has become one of our finest young officers and truly cares about the community he serves as well as his fellow employees,” Jezulin said. “He always has a positive attitude, never complains, and is the type of officer who genuinely enjoys his job.”
Volunteer of the Year: Ken Deagle
As a volunteer with Animal Control, Ken Deagle is credited with streamlining procedures, enabling the unit to operate efficiently.
“Ken would be an asset to any unit he is assigned to and is always a pleasure to work with,” Westminster Police Officers’ Association President Kyle Seasock said. “He is eager to help and always willing to learn in order to be of the greatest assistance.”
Part Time Employee of the Year: Katie Taggert
Working in the Professional Standards Unit, Katie Taggert is described by co-workers as being dependable, consistent, selfless and getting work done “quickly and efficiently.”
Professional Employees of the Year: Police Services Officer Cindy Gray
As a member of the Profesional Standards Unit, Officer Cindy Gray is responsible for overseeing uniform purchases, processing training requests, and helping with equipment purchases.
“Cindy is always helpful and goes out of her way to assist officers and other staff members with whatever they need and always with a smile,” Seasock said.
Professional Employees of the Year: Dispatcher Sara Velardo
Sara Velardo is an experienced dispatcher and “one you would want working the radio in times of crisis,” Seasock said. Velardo has been on the line during some of the department’s most critical incidents with a steady calm voice that never cracks under pressure, he said.
Peers describe Velardo as a dispatcher who “can always be counted on when something big happens to handle her job and stabilize the incident … She seems to always be one step ahead of things and researches background information before the officers even ask for it.”
Supervisor of the Year: Sergeant Ryan Reyes
Sergeant Ryan Reyes is assigned to patrol and supervises the K9 unit. The following are some of the comments used to describe Reyes when he was nominated for this award:
“Sgt. Reyes displays excellent leadership, mentorship and team support.”
“Sgt. Reyes is always an advocate for his officers. He is a good leader, always a calm voice of reason.”
“Sgt. Reyes does a great job on the major calls being tactical and taking control. Sgt. Reyes supports his troops and always takes care of his officers.
Life Saving Awards: Sgt. Jerad Kent and Officer Engelberto Delgado
On Oct. 10, 2021, Sgt. Jerad Kent and Officer Engelberto Delgado responded to a call at Westminster High School involving a 14-year-old boy who had collapsed and was not breathing.
Delgado arrived and noticed the boy was unconscious. He checked for a pulse but there was no pulse. He immediately initiated CPR. Kent then arrived and assisted with CPR while other officers tried to contact the boy’s family and called for Orange County Fire Authority paramedics.
Later, it was discovered that the boy had an unknown heart condition that required immediate surgery.
The boy survived thanks to the actions of the officers.
Life Saving Awards: Officer Abel Jimenez
Jimenez responded to a call for medical aid. He arrived and immediately recognized the subject wasn’t breathing and may have overdosed.
Jimenez enlisted the help of the victim’s friend and had her open a package of Narcan for him while he assessed the man’s vitals and moved the man to flat ground to perform CPR. The officer then deployed the first Narcan dose and started CPR.
Nearly two minutes later, a second Narcan dose was deployed. As Jimenez continued CPR, the man began to cough and he was rolled over into a recovery position as he slowly became conscious.
Paramedics arrived and took over medical treatment.
Life Saving Awards: Officer Bradley Odell
Officer Brady Odell responded to a call for service for a woman who had overdosed on fentanyl, with one can of Narcan already administered by a friend of the woman.
When he and Officer Christopher Chavez arrived, they located the woman and noticed she was unconscious and not breathing. Odell immediately administered Narcan and began chest compressions and kept at the compressions for more than five minutes.
Two additional doses of Narcan were administered.
After four total doses of Narcan and close to five minutes of CPR, the woman was revived and transported to a hospital.
Life Saving Award: Officer Bret Gleason
Medal of Merit: Sergeant Jerad Kent
Officers responded to a report of a man who had been shot. Upon arrival, Kent and Officer Bret Gleason located the man, who had an apparent gunshot wound to the chest and the arm.
The officers cut off the man’s shirt to allow access to the wounds.
Kent identified a chest wound on the victim causing a tension pneumothorax which is described as, “the condition occurs when air leaks into the space between the lungs and chest wall and collapses the lungs.”
This injury could cause the victim to asphyxiate. Gleason applied a trauma chest seal to the victim’s wound. The officers then applied a tourniquet to the victim’s upper right arm to stop the bleeding from that wound.
“OCFA personnel who were on scene later commented that the swift actions in applying the chest seal and tourniquet to the victim were what possibly saved the victim’s life,” said Deputy Chief Darin Upstill, who presented the award.
Gleason was awarded the lifesaving award for his part in the call and Kent received the medal of merit for displaying excellent leadership throughout the incident.
Medal of Merit Award: Officer Travis Hartman
Officer Travis Hartman was instrumental in restarting the Westminster Police Department’s K9 program after not having one for more than 21 years. He was a handler for the last seven years and recently retired his K9 partner, Pako.
During his tenure in the canine program, Hartman and Pako were deployed 237 times leading to 102 surrenders by a suspect and eight apprehensions of suspects.
Pako also sniffed out over $530,000 worth of narcotics in the 3 years he was drug trained.
Hartman and Pako assisted the Seal Beach and Costa Mesa police departments when they needed assistance starting their canine programs. He also has helped raise more than $25,000 for various charities and canine programs.
Top Shot Award: Officer Bryce Burton
When Westminster Police Department officers participate in their annual firearms qualification tests, the department has a competition to see which officer earns the highest score.
Officer Bryce Burton scored the highest, shooting with both right and left hands and shooting from as far away as 25 yards from the target.
M.A.D.D. Century Award: Officer Claire Tran
Mothers Against Drunk Driving recognizes officers who make a significant impact by arresting drivers who are under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
Officers who make from 100 to 199 DUI arrests are eligible for the Century Award. Officer Claire Tran made 142 DUI arrests in 2021.
10851 Awards: Officers Jaredd Montgomery, Waylon Pettengill, and Chris Doan
The 10851 Award is given to officers who excel in finding and arresting auto theft suspects. Three WPD officers earned the award in 2021: Officer Jaredd Montgomery recovered 31 stolen vehicles and made eight arrests; Officer Waylon Pettengill recovered 13 stolen vehicles and made three arrests; and Officer Chris Doan recovered 11 stolen vehicles and made 10 arrests.
Above and Beyond Award: Brian Hoskins
The award recognizes members of the community who provide assistance during a major incident.
On May 5, 2021, a motorcycle driver was involved in a traffic collision causing significant injury and blood loss. Hoskins and his wife spotted the injured motorcyclist as they were driving by. The couple stopped to help before officers or medics arrived. Hoskins used his belt as a tourniquet to stop blood loss from a wound on the driver’s leg.
“This quick thinking and action saved the motorcyclist’s life,” said Chief Darin Lenyi, who presented the award.
Narcan Use Recognition
The following officers were awarded with specially designed medals for dispersing Narcan/Naloxone to overdose victims: Sergeants Daniel Flynn and Alan Aoki; and Officers Abel Jimenez, Devon Ha, Jack Wills, Jaredd, Montgomery, Bradley Odell, Johnson Nghe, Bret Gleason, Jon Bell, Bryce Burton, Jonathon Black, Christopher Doan, Jonathon Figuero, Kees Davis, Nick Lewis, Dalton Foland, Jonathan Mullin, Nicole Brown, Omar Ayala, Robert Farro, Steve Booth, Waylon Pettengill, and William Bouffard.