The Turlock Police Department recognized the service and commitment shown by their officers, employees, and volunteers by handing out a bevy of awards, honors and medals at their annual police department awards breakfast on Thursday.
The ceremony saw the police department bestow two Medals of Meritorious Service, a special commendation, employee, volunteer, and officer of the year awards, the Excellence Award, and a special recognition for Police Chief Nino Amirfar, who celebrated his one-year anniversary as chief on Wednesday.
All the awardees are nominated by their peers and selected by the awards committee.
Officers Sergio Perez and Cody Lawrence were both presented with Medals of Meritorious Service for their life-saving actions at the scene of a collision on Nov. 13, 2017.
The two officers were dispatched to the scene of a collision at N. Golden State Boulevard and Tuolumne Road. They arrived to find smoke and flames coming from the engine compartment of the vehicle, and immediately set to work to get the driver out of the vehicle. The driver, however, was under the influence and instead of assisting the officers, he locked himself in the vehicle.
With flames now spreading to the interior of the vehicle, Perez and Lawrence quickly came up with a plan to get the driver out of harm’s way. Perez broke a window to get the driver out, but the driver still refused to budge, so Perez reached into the burning vehicle and pulled the driver out.
Chief Amirfar applauded the heroic actions of the two officers and said their actions exemplified the motto of going above and beyond the call of duty.
“During this situation, both officers inhaled large amounts of smoke and were in danger of being burned,” Amirfar said. “Once AMR arrived on scene, although Officer Perez’s condition was worse, he insisted the driver receive medical attention first.”
The actions taken by Officer Jacob Young at the scene of a collision on Dec. 25, 2017, earned him the Award of Commendation from the police department.
Young was the first law enforcement to arrive at the scene of a hit-and-run at S. Center and East F streets. Jennifer Metzger, 20, of Turlock had been struck by a vehicle that fled the area. Young found Metzger unconscious at the scene and a witness, who informed him the responsible vehicle had just driven away. Young ran to the intersection and caught sight of the vehicle. He was able to relay the description and direction of travel to fellow law enforcement, which aided greatly in the capture of the driver.
Young returned to Metzger, who had no pulse and was not breathing. He enlisted the help of a citizen and they began administering a two-person CPR until the citizen was relieved by a Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy.
Young and the deputy continued with the two-person CPR for approximately four to five cycles until Metzger let out a gasp of air and began breathing on her own and her pulse returned.
Young continued to provide support by lying flat on the asphalt holding Metzger’s head to stabilize her neck and stayed there for several minutes until a collar could be applied and he was relieved by emergency medical technicians. Metzger was later declared brain dead and taken off life support.
In presenting the honor to Young, Amirfar commended his actions that night, saying he “acted courageously and brought honor” to the police department.
The Employee of the Year Award was presented to Maria Ruiz, who was praised for her “outstanding dedication and work ethic.”
Ruiz’s career with the police department began in the Records department and later she moved into the Investigations Unit. She has served on various committees within the police department, including the Annual Open House event, Blue Santa, and the Widows and Orphans Foundation.
In nominating her, Ruiz’s colleagues said she was “positive, intelligent and hard working.”
“Maria welcomes any challenge and is always willing to help people,” Amirfar said. “Her hard work makes the Investigations Unit function.”
The Officer of the Year Award was presented to Officer Adam Neep, who previously was presented with a Medal of Meritorious Service for his life-saving actions at a fiery crash scene. Neep, with the assistance of a few bystanders ran through a grass fire to rescue a teenager trapped in a burning car after crashing along Highway 99.
“Officer Neep has risen to every challenge he has faced and came through successful,” Amirfar said. “His hard work and dedication are an example to us all.”
The Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Jeff Lopes, who has continued his service to the community after retiring from the police department as a captain. Amirfar credited Lopes with developing the department’s Explorer Program and making it a success.
“Jeff has put forth his time and resources to building our Explorer Unit from almost non-existence to a vibrant and expanding unit of over sixteen Explorers,” Amirfar said. “This program helps develop young people as responsible and productive citizens. Jeff brought a wealth of knowledge with him along with a desire to help mentor the next generation. Having started as an Explorer himself, Jeff understands the challenges of being a teen in a Law Enforcement environment.”
The department’s Excellence Award was bestowed to the Dispatch Unit, who Amirfar called the “life line” of not only the police department, but also for the fire department and city crews. Through staffing shortages and mandated overtime, the dispatchers have shown an unwavering commitment to serving the community, Amirfar said.
“The Communications Unit has been plagued by staffing shortages throughout the year,” Amirfar said. “It is via attrition and due to the lack of finding qualified dispatchers to fill a difficult but important role in providing service to the community.
“Whereas other units would have typically collapsed and folded under extreme pressure to provide quality service, the Communications Unit stepped up their game and dedicated themselves to working even harder,” Amirfar continued.
The award was presented to Dispatch Supervisor Marivel Rodriguez; Dispatchers Cyndi Chabra, Alex Stapler, Sonia Fisher, Katie Layton, Ranae Colunga, Jamie Enchandi-Smith, Jennifer Hagar, Tracy Cook, Kaitlin Carey, Lorrie Lucas, Jennifer Proce, Jacqueline Moor; and part-time dispatch clerks Lidia Contreras, Jeannette Del Toro, and Alexa Ortega.
While Amirfar presided over most of the ceremony, his staff got an opportunity to turn the tables on him when they presented him with a special recognition award.
A year after being officially sworn in as the Chief of Police, Amirfar was praised by the members of the department for showing a commitment to the community and the men and women that make up the Turlock Police Department.
“Chief Amirfar has been a breath of fresh air for our Department,” said Turlock Associated Peace Officers President Brandon Bertram. “He has shown that he truly has the best interest of the department and its employees based on his actions and decisions. He cares deeply about the community and us.”