Family, friends and colleagues packed the room at the Westminster Rose Center for the Westminster Police Department’s annual awards ceremony May 31.
The event honors the agency’s employees for exemplary work and their dedication to the department and community. This year, the event also celebrated the promotions of two employees.
Chief Ralph Ornelas thanked the family members present in support of law enforcement and the work they do.
“I wish I could present an award to all of you,” he said to the gathered members of law enforcement there in support of their friends and colleagues.
He added: “In a very real sense, it’s the rest of us that are being honored by [the honorees’]presence and participation.”
The honors began with Sgt. Michael Harvey and Cpl. Andrew Stowers called up by the chief with their families for their respective promotions – Harvey as a sergeant and Stowers for a special assignment.
Commander Michael Chapman presented awards to Volunteer of the Year Steve Pham and Civilian Employee of the Year Cyn’d Moranville, a Police Services officer.
“Steve has volunteered with the department since November 2015,” said Chapman. “He has helped in a number of areas around the department, including helping the POA [Police Officers’ Association] and he is a daily fixture at the Training Center… The word ‘no’ is not in his vocabulary. Steve not only helps open and close the Training Center, but he spends his time cleaning it and taking out the trash. I’m not sure how he stays married with as many hours as he has dedicated to our department, and he still finds time to run and exercise in the evenings.”
Moranville has worked in Traffic, Dispatch and now is working at the front counter as a desk officer. She’s also a POA board member. In 2016, she wrote 835 reports at the front counter – in addition to handling the usual front-lobby inquiries by residents, both in-person and via phone, as well as balancing her POA duties.
“You would be hard-pressed to find anything happening within the department, or the POA, that Cyn’d is not involved in,” Chapman said. “I remember times as the watch commander having to practically order her to stop handling reports or calls because she had so many already pending. Her work ethic is second to none and she always … has a smile on her face.”
Chapman also recognized Det. Brian Perez, an active-duty Reserve, as a U.S. Marine Corps major.
“We are here to recognize the hard work and dedication of our employees, but we would also like to recognize those who have served in the military,” Chapman said. “Det. Brian Perez is our only current active duty Reserve… I would also like to recognize not only our employees who served in the military but all in attendance.”
Commander Al Panella honored Officer Dan McCarthy as the Orange County Auto Theft Advisory Committee (ATAC) Award recipient for being one of the top vehicle theft recovery officers of the year. Those awards are presented by ATAC and the Western States Auto Theft Investigators to recognize law enforcement patrol officers who have distinguished themselves in vehicle theft investigations, arrests and/or recoveries during 2016, said Panella.
“Dan has become well-known within the department and around Orange County for his stolen vehicle recovery skills,” he said. “Last year alone, Dan recovered eight active rolling stolen vehicles that resulted in 14 arrests, and he recovered a total of 36 other stolen cars, for a grand total of 44 recoveries. The financial value recovery total associated with his work, again, just in 2016, amounts to over $246,000.”
Det. Norma Vasquez, who began working in the Detective Division in 2013 as a crimes against property detective, was named the Ron Weber Sr. Investigator of the Year.
“It quickly became apparent that she had what it took to tenaciously investigate crimes and to relentlessly chase down criminals,” said Panella. “In 2015, Norma began working one of the most difficult desks within the division – robbery/homicide. Her performance in this role has been nothing short of amazing, earning her numerous commendations that highlight her abilities, spanning from being able to locate at-risk missing persons to solving very involved robbery, manslaughter and murder cases.”
Kerry Ly, a police aide in the crimes against persons unit, was awarded Part-Time Employee of the Year.
“Kerry manages a large portion of the administrative work associated with all of our high-profile cases,” Panella said. “If you ask any of our crimes against persons detectives, they will tell you that Kerry is a major reason many of the homicide investigations this past year have run so smoothly.”
Commander Bill Collins announced Mothers Against Drunk Driving Award recipients Officers Roland Perez (42 arrests), Malcolm Pierson (27 arrests) and Nicholas Jezulin (26 arrests).
“Each year, Mothers Against Drunk Driving recognize officers for their efforts in combating drunk drivers,” Collins said. “To be eligible for this award, the officer must make a minimum of 25 drunk driving arrests during the year.”
Officer Samuel Gradilla was honored as Rookie of the Year.
“This officer has demonstrated his eagerness to learn and his consistent hard work ethic,” Collins said. “He has been described by his peers as a team player and always willing to lend a helping hand when needed… He understands the importance of building community relationships.”
Sgt. Alan Iwashita was named Supervisor of the Year.
“When I was told the name of who was selected for Supervisor of the Year, I was not at all surprised,” said Collins. “Alan is a person who ‘gets it.’ He gets that true leadership is not about him, it’s about others. It’s about inspiring others every day to see the purpose and meaning of what they do. He does that by bringing in the human side of leadership. He brings in his heart and his passion for people.”
Commander Mark Lauderback named Det. Jerad Kent as the Top Shot Award recipient for shooting the best score this year when competing with his colleagues – 365 out of 370.
And Officer Nicholas Lewis was named Officer of the Year.
“This year’s Officer of the Year has been an officer with us for the past nine years,” said Lauderback. “He started his career with us a police explorer and has worked patrol his whole career, most recently as a Field Training Officer. As an FTO, he’s been described as patient and professional with all of his trainees…His peers describe him as an outstanding and proactive officer with great investigative skills.”
Three officers and one sergeant were awarded the agency’s Life Saving Award – and were given a medal and uniform ribbon for taking lifesaving actions to help a person survive imminent death.
Officers James Delk and Steve Eifert received the award for their lifesaving efforts for an industrial accident that left a male victim pinned between a large dumpster and a forklift. They were able to unpin the victim by moving the forklift and administered CPR because the victim was not breathing and had no pulse.
“Both officers began CPR and continued with performing CPR until OCFA [Orange County Fire Authority] personnel arrived,” Lauderback said. “The male victim of the collision eventually regained a pulse and began breathing on his own prior to being transported to the hospital.”
Sgt. Scott Gump and Officer Malcolm Pierson III received the award for administering CPR to help resuscitate a woman who had apparently overdosed and was without a pulse and not breathing. They helped her regain a pulse and when paramedics arrived, the medics were able to bring her back to full consciousness.
“If not for the efforts of Sgt. Gump and Officer Pierson, the female subject would most likely have passed away,” Lauderback said.