May 19, 2011
Annual lawman award broadens recognition
Outstanding achievement honor included in this year’s Lawman of Year ceremony
Eight police officers in Cortland County have been nominated for this year’s 41st Lawman of the Year Award — praised for saving lives, helping break high-profile cases and longtime service.
Two Cortland city police officers are also nominated for outstanding achievement, which is a new award to be handed out this year. Jennifer Buggs, who chairs the Lawman of the Year committee, said organizers wanted to broaden recognition given to local law enforcement beyond one single award.
Organizers hope to expand the awards handed out in years to come to recognize the work of local police officers, Buggs added.
The award ceremony is scheduled for Monday evening at the Elks Lodge on Groton Avenue in Cortland.
Trooper Bruce Shive II of the Homer barracks has done “exceptional” police work with his canine partner “Lock” in performing 52 drug-related arrests for cocaine, heroin and marijuana, along with 304 other canine-related calls, State Police Lt. Daniel Hodack wrote.
Hodack said a recent significant case was in February, when Shive’s dog alerted him and another trooper to powdered Ecstasy inside a suitcase during an Interstate 81 traffic stop.
Sgt. Gary North, also of the Homer barracks, was also nominated by Hodack for 28-year state police career that ends with retirement in June. North, also a U.S. Navy veteran, has been a trooper in Binghamton and the Cortland area over the years and reaches mandatory retirement this year.
“He has been an outstanding trooper and supervisor for the New York State Police and his experience, professionalism and sound judgment will be missed by this agency,” Hodack wrote.
Sheriff Lee Price nominated Sgt. David Tobias, Sgt. Joshua Parente and Deputy Jason Kemp for responding to a burning Village Park apartment on Tompkins Street in August and carrying several elderly tenants out of their rooms. Tobias was working a DWI patrol detail at the time when he saw a column of smoke in that area and reported the fire, Price said.
Amid 10-foot-tall flames spreading rapidly, Tobias, Parente and Kemp checked each of the apartments to make sure everyone escaped unharmed, Price said.
“This fire could have easily ended in a tragic loss of life, but instead it ended with a minimized amount of structural damage,” Price wrote in his nomination letter.
Investigators said the Aug. 27 fire was suspicious. No arrests have been made.
Police Chief F. Michael Catalano nominated Sgt. Sean Byrnes for his initial investigation that led police to seize about 20 pounds of marijuana and about $400,000 in cash on June 23 from the Clinton Avenue home of Ralph Zogheib, 26 — who awaits sentencing on federal drug and weapons charges.
A Clinton Avenue resident called police after finding a discarded gallon-size bag of marijuana on the ground. Byrnes was dispatched and searched neighboring yards, finding more marijuana on the ground outside Zogheib’s home at 138 Clinton Ave. Zogheib told officers the marijuana was stolen from him.
Byrnes could have stopped at just retrieving the marijuana bag and clearing the scene, but his extra work led to a major drug dealer’s arrest, Catalano wrote in a nomination letter.
Catalano also nominated Officers Chadd Hines and Benjamin Locke for outstanding achievement recognition.
Hines was on patrol when the Village Park apartment fire came over the radio and helped the sheriff’s deputies carry two residents out of the burning building. Catalano said Hines could have easily justified not leaving his jurisdiction when other officers were on the scene, but he helped save lives.
Locke spotted KFC robbery suspect Dennis Alex-Hart several minutes after he fled the restaurant Aug. 20 with about $3,000 in cash.
Locke, among the first to respond to the robbery, saw the suspect dump his bicycle on Glenn Street and run toward the nearby city Water Works.
Locke’s observations helped police recover the stolen cash and evidence, which helped authorities identify Alex-Hart as the robber, Catalano said. Alex-Hart was sentenced to three to six years in state prison for felony robbery.
Police Chief Steven Dangler nominated officers David Coakley and Adam Koehler for helping save the life of a 48-year-old man on May 20, who was not breathing and collapsed near SUNY Cortland Athletic Stadium.
The man had a prior heart problem and was visiting campus with his daughter, a prospective SUNY Cortland student, Dangler said. Both officers performed CPR on the man until medical crews arrived and placed him inside an ambulance.
“It was not long before he started to show signs of movement, his pulse returned and he began attempting spontaneous respirations,” Dangler wrote.
Dangler said it was “very likely” the outcome would not have been positive, had Coakley and Koehler not provided the medical aid.
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