Bainbridge officers receive recognition in department’s first award ceremony

Recently retired officer Richard Christopher is awarded 2012 Officer of the Year for  his longstanding committment to the department as a field training officer, defensive tactics instructor, patrol tactics instructor and arson investigator. - Cecilia Garza | Bainbridge Island Review
Recently retired officer Richard Christopher is awarded 2012 Officer of the Year for his longstanding committment to the department as a field training officer, defensive tactics instructor, patrol tactics instructor and arson investigator.
— image credit: Cecilia Garza | Bainbridge Island Review

With change comes also a few firsts.

For the Bainbridge Island Police Department, there have been a lot of changes in the past year, and with that officers were recognized in the department’s first award ceremony last week.

“Tonight is historic,” said Bainbridge Island Police Chief Matthew Hamner at the start of the banquet.

“I was told this was the first honors ceremony since 1991, when the city was incorporated, and I want to emphasize that this is the first annual ceremony, because we will continue to do this.”

Individuals in all levels of duty were recognized.

Officer Maurine Stich introduced the Exceptional Civic Duty and Meritorious Conduct ribbons. These were awarded to officers for excellence in police work and outstanding performance under unusual, complicated or hazardous conditions. They were also awarded for outstanding performance over a prolonged period of time or for designing and implementing exemplary problem-solving projects in cooperation with the community.

Officer Carla Sias was presented two awards in the category. The first recognized her dedication to planning and coordinating the 2013 National Night Out Against Crime event.

“For months prior to the event, she worked tirelessly coordinating donors, volunteers and resources to make this very special family-oriented and fun celebration that was a huge hit with the community,” Stich said.

“She brought to fruition an expanded vision of the event that eclipsed prior events and required a great deal of coordination and mobilization of community resources.”

Sias was also recognized for her police work in putting an end to a series of car prowls in December.

Over a 25-day period, Bainbridge experienced an historic crime wave involving the investigation of more than 45 car prowls, several vehicle thefts and multiple burglaries.

Around 1:10 a.m. Dec. 16, Sias was patrolling an area where the suspect had been the most active and observed a suspicious man. She confronted him and gathered his identification, but at the time there was no probable cause to make an arrest. She continued to check the area and located a very recent car prowl. Because she had already identified the man, the department was able to locate, arrest and book him later that day.

“Officer Carla Sias’ planning, observation and quick action brought the crime spree to a successful conclusion,” Stich said. “Her actions are in keeping with professional police work and she brings great credit to herself and the Bainbridge Island Police Department.”

Detective Scott Weiss was also recognized for his performance and police work after developing a confidential informant in June 2013. Through his work with the informant, Weiss was able to gather critical information regarding a convicted felon who was allegedly trafficking stolen firearms and selling narcotics. Weiss made several controlled buys, and in one instance, he purchased a stolen firearm that had been modified with the barrel and stock cut down.

His detective work ended with the recovery of several stolen firearms and illegal drugs and the suspect convicted of numerous felonies.

“Detective Weiss’ initiative in developing the informant as well as his careful planning of the investigation is indicative of the hard work and energy he puts into all of his cases,” Stich said.

The department awarded Officer Ben Sias with two awards, one for his commitment to being the department’s lead marine officer and the second for outstanding performance in an incident involving an unwanted person at Bainbridge High School.

On Halloween day, Sias reported to the high school when a person with a history mental health issues refused to leave the school parking lot.

Sias attempted to talk down the individual while he contacted the county’s mental health provider and the person’s family.

After about two hours, the man rolled down the window to dump the contents of a cup and unintentionally dropped it. Sias quickly reached through the window, unlocked the door and removed the person from the vehicle. The subject was then safely transported to a mental facility for an evaluation by a mental health professional.

“Thanks to Officer Sias’ patience, resourcefulness and quick action, this incident was resolved without injury to anyone and with no damage to property,” Stich said.

Also awarded for their outstanding performance and civic duty were evidence technician Jennifer Cooper, Parking Enforcement Officer Ken Lundgren, Officer Erik Peffer and Officer Trevor Ziemba.

“In the course of his duties as the department’s lone PEO, he’s (Lundgren) been hailed by some members of the community as an omnipresent, under-yielding enforcer,” Stich said.

“In reality, Ken has a very difficult position that requires a tremendous amount of patience and diplomacy,” Stich added.

Awarded Officer of the Year for 2012 was Officer Richard Christopher.

Christopher, who recently retired, was recognized for his time serving as the department’s field training officer, firearms instructor, defensive tactics instructor, bike officer, arson investigator and patrol tactics instructor. His dedication to island youth was also a key attribute to his time at the department.

Officer Victor Cienega was awarded the 2013 Officer of the Year award for his constant diligence in serving as a team player. He was the most willing officer to stay late, help on his days off and is often the first to respond to radio calls.

Christopher was also awarded for his work in a life-saving case, along with Ziemba.

In 2012, both officers responded to a 911 call about two men in the water near Blake Island as a result of a capsized canoe. The men were affected by hypothermia. The officers were able to locate and transport them to the shore using the marine services boat. Any delay in their response, may have been fatal, officials said, as the victims’ core temperature was so low that their lives were in danger.

In addition to these awards, the Bainbridge Island Police Department created a final award recognizing officers injured in the line of duty. The Purple Shield Award was presented to Weiss for his efforts in a 1998 incident.

Weiss and other Bainbridge officers were investigating a suspect of a felony assault. On a search warrant, Weiss boarded the suspect’s liveaboard home. After repeatedly yelling “police” and “search warrant” and receiving no response, Weiss opened the boat’s hatch. He was fired upon and received grazing wounds to his forehead and left hand.

The suspect was later booked for attempted murder and felony possession of a firearm.

“I’ve seen these officers in action,” Hamner said. “I am very impressed. And I think you should be, too.”

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