May 19, 2012
Police nominate candidates for Lawman of Year
The candidates for the 2012 Cortland County Lawman of the Year and the recently added police achievement award were nominated for the ways they handled public safety issues big and small — from criminal investigations to patrolling the highways.
Four police officers are contenders for 2012 Lawman of the Year and one officer has been nominated for outstanding achievement in police work.
The awards will handed out during the 42nd annual Lawman of the Year ceremony, scheduled Monday at the Cortland Elks Lodge.
Investigator Jeff Hall, who retired earlier this year after 29 years with the state police, was nominated for Lawman of the Year for work that was integral in closing several major cases in 2011.
Among them was helping Syracuse police identify a witness to the murder of Kihary Blue, a former star athlete at Henninger High School who was home from college when he was shot in 2010.
The murder was unsolved until March 2011, when investigators Hall and William Sperger were questioning a suspect in a drug case and learned the suspect witnessed Blue’s murder, State Police Capt. Troy Little said.
“The Syracuse police homicide investigation was clearly stagnant due to a lack of evidence, no additional suspect information, and a lack of cooperation from potential witnesses,” Little wrote in a nomination letter.
Hall’s drug suspect helped police identify Blue’s alleged killer: Kahari Smith, 26, of Syracuse. Smith faces state and federal murder charges. The case was linked to gang violence in Syracuse.
Hall was also nominated for helping the U.S. Secret Service identify a statewide counterfeit credit card operation, and catching two burglary suspects stealing from two homes in Virgil in October.
Hall became a state police investigator in 1993.
Cortland city police
Chief F. Michael Catalano nominated Officer Ken Bush for Lawman of the Year and Officer Roger Stafford for the outstanding achievement category.
Bush was dispatched July 6 to help an elderly man in cardiac arrest at his home and arrived moments before fire and medical personnel. Bush performed CPR on the man, who had regained vital signs when medics arrived. The man survived, and Cortland Fire Chief Chuck Glover noted Bush’s efforts helped save the man’s life, Catalano said.
The effort also garnered Bush an award from the state Association of Chiefs of Police.
Stafford was nominated for his role in helping arrest a woman who tried to rob the North End Liquor store at knifepoint in October. Elizabeth Dubke was arrested nine minutes after the robbery took place, said Catalano, who further credited “incredibly outstanding” police work from all officers who responded. Dubke is serving state prison time.
Stafford was also credited for his work in a brief standoff Oct. 16, when 18-year-old Patrick Cobane barricaded himself in his Port Watson Street home and shot a state trooper in the head with a BB gun.
“Officer Stafford was assigned to the desk and was communicating on the phone for several minutes with the angry subject (Cobane) in an effort to calm him down and try to end the volatile situation,” Catalano said.
Officer Mike Howell was nominated as Lawman of the Year for arresting Erie County resident Geoffrey Thompson on Sept. 22, after Thompson choked and nearly killed the cab driver he hired in New York City to take him to Buffalo.
Howell was dispatched for a suspicious vehicle complaint by Routes 281 and 90. He found the victim had nearly been choked unconscious and the assailant had run toward Glenwood Cemetery.
“Due to the suspect’s non-compliance and regardless of the substantial difference in size or the fact that this man just tried to kill someone, Officer Howell grabbed his legs, which dropped him to his knees, without hesitation,” Chief Dan Mack wrote in a nomination letter.
Howell is also a trained EMT with TLC Emergency Medical Services.
Thompson pleaded guilty to felony strangulation and received probation after getting treatment for a mental illnesses that prompted the attack.
County Sheriff’s Deputy Irving Reynolds has led the department in Vehicle and Traffic Law enforcement in 2011 by issuing 245 traffic tickets and making 24 drunken driving arrests, Sheriff Lee Price said in a nomination letter. To put that in perspective, the entire Sheriff’s Department made 85 drunken driving arrests in 2011, Price said.
“Although he accelerated in most, if not all aspects of the job, this officer clearly has a passion for keeping our community’s streets free from people who choose to drink and drive,” Price said. “It goes without saying that I have great expectations for this officer and the career I know he’s capable of.”
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