The Westminster Police Department presented two years of awards to the department’s best and brightest during a ceremony on May 12 in the courtyard in front of the department.
Each year, the Westminster Police Department selects an annual awards committee, comprised of members from various divisions from within the department.
Based on numerous comments and nominations received throughout the year, the committee has the difficult task of selecting the department’s annual award winners.
Since the coronavirus pandemic prevented the awards ceremony to take place in 2020, both the 2020 and 2021 honorees were recognized at this year’s event.
“The selection process is rigorous and despite the excellent work produced by all our department members, not everyone can be recognized,” said Westminster Police Officers Association (WPOA) president Kyle Seasock, who presided over the WPOA portion of awards ceremony. “The award recipients and their actions are indicative of the professionalism and exemplary performance our department members endeavor toward each day.”
Also presiding over the ceremony were Det. Nick Jezulin, Deputy Chief Darin Upstill and Deputy Chief Cameron Knauerhaze.
Volunteer of the Year
“Our volunteers are invaluable assets to the department, as they assist our operations division by providing support services both within the department and for the community we serve,” Seasock said.
2019 — Don Schuler and Hieu Nguyen
Hieu and Schuler have been volunteers with the department for several years. The pair conducts numerous home checks for residents when they are out of town or incapacitated. Schuler and Nguyen also assist with the Citizens’ Academy and other duties within the department.
Civilian Employee of the Year
“Our professional staff at the Westminster Police Department are the backbone of all our services,” Seasock said. “While our sworn personnel provide much of the services in the field, our professional staff support our every move. We simply could not do what we do, without their help. They work in all divisions of the department and perform vital tasks that keep the department humming.”
2019 — Police Services Officer, Cyn’d Moranville
Moranville has been with the department for almost 32 years, longer than any other accident investigator in the agency. She is the linchpin for all traffic-related matters and for the WPOA, Seasock said. Moranville’s expertise is relied upon by current and former members of the traffic division.
“We would be lost without her,” Seasock said. “There is not a division within our department Cyn’d has not assisted in some form.”
2020 — Police Services Officer, Cindy Gray
Gray currently serves in the Professional Standards Unit where she is responsible for keeping daily activities organized. Some of her duties include the management of uniform purchases, processing training requests, and helping to manage equipment purchases.
“Her organizational and project management skills are an incredible asset to the agency and keeps things running smooth,” Seasock said.
2020 – Gary Morford
Morford has volunteered as an assistant in the department’s Emergency Operations Center, where part of his job involves reviewing paperwork generated by the department. His work has proven to be essential in helping the department recover some of the unforeseen costs generated in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Part-time Employee of the Year
“Our part-time employees are vital resources for our department,” Seasock said. “Their work is varied and extremely challenging, supplementing our full-time professional staff with essential tasks throughout the department. Their work ethic and dedication are nothing short of exemplary.”
2019 – Police Aide Berlyn Sanchez
Sanchez was assigned to assist the Traffic division but has taken on many more duties than helping in Traffic. She has assisted with managing and coordinating numerous tasks for the Traffic, Code Enforcement, Parking Control, and the Animal Control divisions.
2020 – Civilian Investigator Peter Mach
Mach, who is a retired investigator from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, has been assisting the detective division since 2018. He received the part-time employee of the year award in 2018. Despite working part-time, Mach manages a full-time caseload and is a trusted resource for the detective division.
Rookie of the Year
2019 – Officer Waylon Pettengill
Pettengill made an immediate impact in the Patrol division when starting at the Westminster Police Department in 2019. He is described by his peers as being extremely hard working and a “go getter.” Having come to Westminster as a lateral, Pettengill uses his past experience to help mentor newer officers.
2020 – Officer Bryce Burton
Since beginning his career, Burton has shown a passion for police work. He is described by peers as “having a knack,” for rooting out criminal activity and maintaining a positive attitude. Burton works hard with his partners and frequently seeks out feedback on how he can better himself as an officer. Despite his relatively short tenure, Burton has put together some impressive criminal cases.
Senior Investigator of the Year
2019 – Sergeant Jerad Kent
Kent was recently promoted to sergeant, but distinguished himself as a gang investigator in 2019. He was assigned to the Tri-Agency Resource Gang Enforcement Team (TARGET) unit from 2016-2021. In that role, Kent worked numerous gang cases and assisted on several homicide cases. His expertise was also called upon by outside agencies.
2020 – Officer Kyle Seasock and Sergeant Daniel Flynn
Until rotating back to the patrol division in January 2021, Seasock was the department’s most seasoned investigator. He was assigned to the narcotics and special investigations unit. During his time on the narcotics and special investigations unit, Seasock worked numerous complex investigations and took on an array of duties. His experience as an investigator was depended upon, and he frequently assisted other investigators by performing and supervising surveillance operations, as well as providing insight based on his experience.
Flynn was recently promoted to sergeant. Prior to his promotion, Flynn was assigned to the Robbery/Homicide unit where he earned a reputation as a tireless and detail-orientated investigator. His efforts have proved pivotal in solving several homicide investigations. Along with his investigative duties, Flynn assisted in getting the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) program off the ground, test firing all of the department’s seized firearms for entry into the national database.
Officer of the Year
2019 – Officer Roland Perez
Perez is currently one of the department’s Homeless Liaison Officers (HLO). As the department’s first HLO, Perez had the difficult task of defining what this position involves in real time. He has partnered with representatives from CityNet, Orange County Mental Health, and representatives from the city to extend services to the homeless population. He has also coordinated numerous outreach events within the city and assisted other agencies with their homeless outreach efforts.
2020 – Officer Travis Hartman
Hartman is currently assigned as a K9 handler with his K9, Pako. Hartman had the difficult job of re-establishing the department’s K9 program after a 25-year hiatus. He has taken on the task with passion. Hartman’s outreach efforts have helped to expand the K9 program, which helped the program build a significant following on social media.
Supervisor of the Year
2019 – Sergeant Andy Stowers
Stowers has been a sergeant for five years. He has been assigned to the patrol division and has managed the Field Training Officer (FTO) program for several years. His leadership and active engagement with the officers under his supervision has been exemplary.
2020 – Sergeant Bill Drinnin
Drinnin is currently assigned to the patrol division after having recently supervised the Traffic division. Drinnin is recognized as a consummate professional by his peers and is known to have a tireless work ethic. The sergeant also has several collateral and ancillary duties, serving as an Honor Guard, member of the bike team, animal control and as a Homeless Liaison officer. Drinnin also manages the 999 Memorial Bike Ride, which raises funds for the Westminster Police Officer’s Memorial Foundation.
Department award winners
In 2019, only one department Medal of Merit was awarded among the numerous nominations received by the committee.
2019 Medal of Merit – Christian Hernandez
Hernandez was selected for the Medal of Merit for his actions on Aug. 22, 2019, when he responded to an apartment fire on Brookhurst Street. When he arrived on the scene, he found the entire location engulfed in flames. He immediately checked with citizens in the crowd to determine whether anyone might be inside the apartments. Once he was assured that nobody was inside, he began running to adjacent apartments to notify and evacuate other residents. As a result of his quick actions, nobody was injured during the incident.
2020 Lifesaving Award – Detective Malcolm Pierson III
Pierson was given a lifesaving award for saving the life of a woman who was unconscious due to an apparent opioid overdose. Pierson immediately administered NARCAN and initiated CPR on the woman, and enlisted help from bystander to assist in administering CPR, which revived the woman.
2020 Lifesaving Award – Officer Adriana Villezcas
Villezcas responded to a call considered to be among the most horrifying calls for service for an officer: a baby not breathing. When arriving at the residence, Villezcas was met by the frantic parents, who were holding their lifeless infant in their arms. The infant had turned blue and was not breathing. Villezcas immediately jumped into action, calmly taking the infant from them and administering back blows, effectively dislodging an airway obstruction. The infant began breathing on his own and ultimately made a full recovery.
“Officer Villezcas’ quick actions undoubtedly saved the child’s life,” Knauerhaze said.
2020 Lifesaving Award – Roland Perez
Perez responded to a call for service at a residence where he discovered a man who had a large stabbing wound on his arm. Perez applied a tourniquet around the man’s arm to stop the bleeding. Perez’s quick thinking and actions prevented further blood loss and effectively saved the man’s life.
Westminster Police Department Police Cross Award and medal
The Westminster Police Department Police Cross Award and medal is given to a retired member of the department who distinguished themselves throughout their career and made significant contributions to the department and law enforcement as a whole.
Commander Cord Vandergrift presented the award to Carrie Richard, widow of Westminster PD Sgt. Tom Richard, who died in 2013.
Other award recipients were:
- Auto Theft Advisory Committee (ATAC) award — Det. Bryan Cramer
- 10851 Award (Auto theft award issued by the California Highway Patrol and CA Auto Association) – Officer Steven Vo
- MADD Century award for making in excess of 100 DUI arrests in a year – Officer Claire Tran.
- Tran was also presented with a Woman of Distinction award from State Senator Thomas Umberg.