About 50 officers, decked out mostly in dress uniforms, along with family, friends, and significant others, came out for the annual Westminster Police Department awards ceremony at the Rose Center Theater.
Police Chief Darin Lenyi mentioned the sacrifices officers make and the pressures and criticisms they face in order to serve the community.
“To take a few hours to recognize so much good work they do all year, it’s the least we can do,” Lenyi said.
This year’s awards honored police for everything from taking down armed suspects to saving lives to just doing consistently fine work. There were individual awards as well as group and unit citations and more than a couple of officers making multiple trips to the awards area to receive their recognitions.
Award winners were nominated by fellow department members and reviewed by a nomination committee, including body camera footage if applicable, before voting and passing recommendations to the chief.
Prior to handing out the awards, Lenyi noted the department had responded to a whopping 80,000 calls for service in 2022 for the department of 85 sworn officers.
Among the actions for which police were recognized were administering life-saving CPR or Naloxone, or Narcan, nasal spray for suspected drug overdoses. Narcan, an opioid reversal drug designed to counteract symptoms that can lead to brain injury or death, was administered 43 times in 2022 by 24 Westminster officers.
Officers and recognized awards included:
Chief’s Award of Service: Officer Devon Ha and Officer Steven Vo
Maybe the most dramatic footage was shown during the presentation of this first-ever award, chosen by Lenyi for exemplary work at an event or incident. Last year, Ha and Vo were part of a stop of a suspicious vehicle leaving a slaphouse that went from routine to dangerous in a heartbeat.
As a passenger was being assisted out of the car by Ha, the officer noticed a gun hidden in the waistband of the man. Reacting quickly, Ha subdued the suspect, who appeared to be reaching for the gun during the encounter, while Vo held the man at gunpoint.
According to the report, “Ultimately, the gun is safely recovered and the suspect is handcuffed with minimal force.”
For their quick reactions and teamwork, the officers received the inaugural award. The two officers were also recognized among the officers to use Narcan with potential overdose victims.
Officer of the Year: Engelberto Delgado
Delgado, who earned a Life Saving Award last year, was recognized for his willingness to participate in new projects, active volunteerism in the community, as well as proactive policing and enforcement in problem areas with arrests for guns, drugs, and solving transient-related crimes.
He was also recognized with the Community Service Award for developing a directed enforcement plan to attack drug-related and transient crime along Bolsa Avenue. During his patrol shifts, Delgado made 13 arrests for drug-related crimes and in one case recovered an illegal firearm.
Rookie of the Year: Evan Bruzzi
A go-getter on the night patrol, Bruzzi received multiple nominations from fellow officers and was cited as “one of our finest young officers (who) truly cares about the community he serves as well as his fellow employees.”
Bruzzi was credited with an upbeat attitude, eagerness to learn from veteran officers, initiative and being a team player. On the night shift, he made 109 arrests (55 self-initiated), and took an astounding 327 reports. Bruzzi was also one of the police to use Narcan to aid a potential overdose victim.
Supervisor of the Year: Jerad Kent
It is often said you can tell a lot about a department by its sergeants. If that’s true, Kent shines a good light on Westminster. Assigned to Patrol, Kent is also a team leader on West County SWAT. Kent also won the Top Shot Award, which is fitting as he is the department’s Rangemaster.
“Sergeant Kent always challenges his officers to do their best and improve, but he constantly leads by example,” wrote one nominator.
He also was on a team tasked with creating a curriculum and teaching fellow police officers a variety of de-escalation tactics, appropriate use of force, and case law as mandated by California Senate Bill 30.
Investigator of the Year: Jonathan Figueroa
The lone detective assigned to investigate sexual assault crimes, child abuse, and elder abuse cases in the Crimes Against Persons Unit, Figueroa maintains a positive attitude in his first year in a sometimes grim and emotionally taxing position.
In addition to his detective duties, Figueroa is part of the department’s Honor Guard and administered Narcan to a victim during a potential drug overdose.
Medal of Merit Award: Bryce Burton
In January, Burton located a car he had seen in a crime bulletin. After watching the vehicle from an unmarked vehicle, he stopped a male suspect attempting to enter the car.
Burton was not only able to get the man to admit to the robbery in the bulletin, but talk about three different armed robberies in Westminster and one in Fountain Valley, and identify a second suspect.
The information helped detectives confirm the identity of a suspect in a murder that had occurred a few days prior, leading to the arrest of the murder suspect.
Volunteer of the Year: Ken Deagle
For the second straight year, Deagle won the award as an “absolute asset to Animal Control,” where he helps the unit run smoothly and efficiently.
Part-Time Employee of the Year: Terry Schumacher
As part of the detective bureau for the last six years, Schumacher assists in investigations, often watching thousands of hours of video surveillance to identify suspects. Her work helps free up detectives to investigate more violent crimes.
Professional Staff of the Year: Nhat Tran
Assigned to the front desk, patrol operations, and also the jail, Tran assists patrol officers, taking police reports, missing persons, and traffic collision reports. This allows officers to spend more time in the field. Tran took an astounding 672 reports, more than three times the average of officers.
The Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization recognizes officers who make a significant impact arresting people who are driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Officers Claire Tran and Jack Wills focus much of their patrol time searching for impaired drivers. In 2022, Wills made 25 arrests and Tran made 62 arrests of DUI drivers.
The 10851 Award, named after the vehicle code for auto theft, is given to officers who excel in locating and arresting suspects involved in car thefts. In 2022, six Westminster officers earned the award, collectively recovering 109 stolen vehicles worth $1.8 million, and making 33 arrests.
Above and Beyond Award: Explorer Sergeant Quan Vu
While on a ride-along on Christmas Eve with Officer Devin Ha, the Westminster Explorer brought along a tactical medical kit he had purchased on his own, just in case.
During the evening, a suspect was in a shooting with police. Using his personal equipment, Vu assisted Ha in a successful effort to save the suspect’s life.
Life Saving Award #1
In February, Officers Jon Bell and Jonathon Black responded to a call to find a man who had suffered an apparent heart attack. They used an AED to defibrillate the heart, began CPR and used an Ambu bag to deliver air into the subject’s airways. Narcan was also administered and the officers continued first aid until OCFA arrived and took over first aid. The man was eventually transported to the hospital.
Life Saving Award #2
In July, after the pursuit of a suspect in a stabbing murder ended in an officer-involved shooting, Sergeant Anil Adam and Detectives Mike Gradilla and Sam Gradilla provided life saving measures to the homicide suspect. The detectives identified the entry/exit wounds on the suspect’s torso and Adam placed chest seals on the areas where the suspect was shot. The Gradillas continued to monitor the suspect’s vital signs and perform CPR and life saving measures for more than four minutes until medics arrived.
Appreciation Award: Reina Cuevas
Cuevas was a supervisor for Allied Jail Employees, which staffs the Westminster Jail. In addition to supervision, she processed 1,042 inmates and spent 397 hours transporting arrestees to the Orange County Jail. She was also renowned for her decorations and holiday spirit.
This year, the department introduced a new award category called the Police Unit Citation to recognize a particular employee or organizational unit for exemplary work. In all, eight units of varying sizes and their members were recognized.
Summing up the work of the department, Lenyi said, “Being in law enforcement is an extremely difficult job: long hours, unwanted OT, shift work and being ridiculed for not handling every situation perfectly every time. I don’t know another profession where that happens.”
However, he concluded, “I am proud of all the members of the department… It’s an honor being here.”