Dozens of East Precinct police officers garner awards; one civilian hero also cited at ceremony

You’ve already seen many of stories behind these awards exclusively at East Portland News. Now, find out who the Portland Police Bureau considers to be outstanding officers, and learn why one Lents citizen, and his two friends, were given special honors …

The Horner Performing Arts Center is filled to “standing room only” as the ceremony gets underway.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For blocks around the David Douglas High School Horner Performing Arts Center, parking was scarce on January 26, as participants and supporters assembled for the semiannual Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Awards Ceremony.

At the ceremony, introduced by PPB Chief Rosie Sizer, 29 citizens and 63 members of the Portland Police Bureau and partnering agencies were honored – many of them for work in outer East Portland.

Portland Police Bureau Chief Rosie Sizer welcomes awardees and an auditorium full of guests to the latest awards ceremony.

Police spokesperson Detective Mary Wheat prepares to announce the first commendation.

Chief Sizer also presented the “Officer Mark Zylawy Distinguished Service Medal” to Officer West Helfrich, for his contributions to the community and his dedication to improving the lives of others.

Note: We lightly edited the text of the actual commendations
as they were spoken at the ceremony.

Commendation Medal awarded for
Rx turn-in program

East Precinct Crime Prevention Specialists Jenni Bernheisel and Angel Wagnon receive their awards for the drug turn-in program they started.

On August 28, 2009, the Office of Neighborhood Involvement and the Portland Police Bureau’s East Precinct partnered to host the first Portland area prescription drug turn in event.

> CLICK HERE to read our story about this great event.

The research and planning efforts of Crime Prevention Specialists Jenni Bernheisel and Angel Wagnon paid off handsomely, taking off the streets more than 40 pounds of prescription drugs, with an estimated value of well over one hundred thousand dollars. For their efforts, Bernheisel and Wagnon, were awarded the Commendation Medal.

Commendation Medal awarded
for thwarting carjacking

East Precinct Officer John Maul smiles as Chief Sizer applauds him on his award.

On July 24, 2008, Portland Police Officer John Maul was off duty when he was traveling down NE Glisan Street on his way to meet some friends.

While approaching a red light at NE 148th he observed a male, dressed in dark clothing, run across the middle of Glisan Street.

On several instances the man was nearly hit by moving vehicles. The man approached and stopped a car and jerked the rear driver’s side door open and jumped in. The car made and erratic u-turn and headed westbound on NE Glisan.

Suspecting something was not right, Officer Maul followed the car. When he approached the car he drove up next to the left side he could see the occupants, both of whom seemed to be terrified and were motioning and mouthing the words “Help Us”. Officer Maul dropped back behind the vehicle and called 9-1-1.

As Officer Maul continued to follow the vehicle it pulled into a parking lot and the suspect exited the vehicle. Officer Maul immediately got out of his car, approached the suspect and was able to contain him until help arrived.

A crime had been committed, citizens had been in danger. In recognition of his actions during the incident, Maul was awarded the Commendation Medal.

Officer hooks up towing rip-off company

East Precinct Officer John Edwards helped put an end to a shady towing company’s dealings that ripped off citizens.

On March 11, 2008, Portland Police Officer John Edwards responded to a radio call that would ultimately begin an 18-month investigation. SET Towing held a vehicle and wouldn’t release it to the owner.

Edwards discovered that the vehicle had been stolen by a pair of thieves who operated a towing business called SET. Together the pair had stolen cars and trucks, threatened victims and witnesses, extorted tens of thousands of dollars from innocent people, and fraudulently obtained clean titles through the Oregon DMV by way of “possessory liens”.

Through his investigation Edwards spoke with dozens of people, and learned the details of how the two crooks operated their scam. He prepared a criminal case against the suspects and the two were ultimately found guilty of multiple felony crimes and are now serving time behind bars.

For his professionalism and thoroughness, Edwards, was awarded the Achievement Medal.

Gangsters made to clean up their mess,
by alert cops

East Precinct Sergeant Randy Teig and Officer Cory Stenzel listen as their commendation is read.

Over the past two years, outer East Portland has seen a significant increase in gang activity. During this time, a gang known as the Family Kings has been found to be involved in shootings, stabbings, and neighborhood graffiti vandalism resulting in damages upwards of $250,000.

Sergeant Randy Teig and Officer Cory Stenzel began identifying the gang members through graffiti “tags”. Using informants and social websites, they gathered intelligence on the Family King members and their associates.

With this information, Sergeant Teig and Officer Stenzel worked with the Portland Police Bureau Gang Enforcement Team and the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office to seek criminal charges for the extensive vandalism for which the Family Kings were responsible.

With the help of volunteers and members of the Family Kings gang, Sergeant Teig and Officer Stenzel put together a day of service to paint over the graffiti caused by the gang. In addition to using gang members to repair the damage they had caused their community, 13 criminal cases were sent to the District Attorney for prosecution.

> To read our coverage of this story, CLICK HERE.

For their professionalism, their dedication, and their innovative ways of ridding a community of gang graffiti and violence, Sergeant Randy Teig and Officer Cory Stenzel, were awarded the Achievement Medal.

Officers go after alleged killers
in ‘Family Kings’ gang

Attendees learn how these two East Precinct officers, John Billard and Aaron Sparling, help get indictments against gangster killers.

In early 2009 Portland Police Officers John Billard and Aaron Sparling were paired up and assigned to a “gang car”, in response to increasing gang violence. They aggressively patrolled East Precinct for gang members and gang-related crimes.

Based on their contacts and research, they created an extensive amount of intelligence documenting local gang members and their associates – from their “street names” and graffiti tags, to flow charts highlighting entire street gangs and their hierarchy.

Most recently Billard and Sparling investigated a case leading to a secret indictment accusing several members of the Family Kings street gang of attempted murder. They developed this case while being required to cultivate and gain cooperation from several victims.

For their dedication and professionalism in reducing gangs and gang-related violent crime, Officer John Billard and Officer Aaron Sparling were awarded the Achievement Medal.

Anti-prostitution effort cleans up
82nd Avenue of Roses

These 23 individuals were given recognition for the part they played in reducing street-level prostitution in outer East Portland.

Portland’s 82nd Avenue of Roses has always been known for prostitution activity. By the summer of 2008, with the City Council elimination of the Prostitution Free Zone, prostitution on 82nd had reached an intolerable level. But by the summer of 2009, through the leadership of six individuals, 82nd Avenue made a dramatic change for the better.

> To read one of a dozen of our stories on this topic, CLICK HERE.

Portland Police East Precinct Commander Mike Crebs, Sergeant Dave Golliday, Officer Heath Kula, Deputy District Attorneys Jenna Plank and J.R. Ujifusa, and Mr. Brian Wong were instrumental in reducing prostitution from 82nd Avenue. Together, they examined and changed policies, conducted weekly missions, educated the District Attorney’s Office on how to implement processes, participated in public meetings, and set up neighborhood foot patrols.

In addition, other officers assisted in providing constant police prescence, as well as giving guidance and assistance to prostitutes who were either arrested or court-ordered to attend a treatment program.

Their effort has reduced prostitution, and they have made strides in improving livability in the area of 82nd Avenue of Roses.

Commander Mike Crebs, Sergeant David Golliday, Officer Heath Kula, Deputy District Attorneys Jenna Plank and J.R. Ujifusa, and Brian Wong were awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for their efforts.

And, Officers Kris Barber, Scherise Hobbs, Heath Kula, Michael Gallagher, Erica Hurley, Joshua Howery, Michael Stevens, Natasha Haunsperger, Randi Miller, Sergeant Dave Golliday, Lieutenant Kevin Modica, FBI Special Agent Masayo Halpin, Kathleen Treb, Emmy Ritter, Beth Glisczinski, Terri Collins, and Audrianna Burr were awarded the Unit Commendation for their participation.

Officers risk their safety to save
victim in murder-suicide

East Precinct Officer David Rasmussen, Officer Lacey Sparling, Sergeant Randy Teig, Sergeant Jeff Helfrich, and Officer Sarah Kerwin rushed in to save a woman who’d been shot by her husband.

On May 2, 2009, East Precinct Officers were dispatched on a report of a shooting that had just occurred. The victim called 911 and said that her husband had just shot her three times. He had also shot himself, was still armed, and not moving. The victim complained of breathing troubles and being light-headed.

> [To see our coverage of this story, CLICK HERE.]

Officer David Rasmussen was dispatched and was first on the scene. Within minutes of arrival, Sergeants Randy Teig and Jeff Helfrich developed a tactical plan and assembled an entry team to begin their rescue of the victim.

Upon entry, Officers Lacey Sparling and Sarah Kerwin rushed to the victim’s aid while Officer Rasmussen secured the handgun, and Sergeants Teig and Helfrich secured the gunman.

Although the incident posed a significant threat to the victim as well as the entry team, the officers did not hesitate to act. Despite the inherent dangers to their own personal safety, they performed with extreme bravery and selflessness.

It is for these reasons; Sergeant Randy Teig, Sergeant Jeff Helfrich, Officer Lacey Sparling, Officer David Rasmussen, and Officer Sarah Kerwin were awarded the Lifesaving Medal.

Citizens sprint to corner gangster with gun

Accepting on behalf of the others at R-Boe’s automotive repair, Thomas Rogers stands with Chief Sizer.

On January 14, 2009, Brent Crooks, Thomas Rogers and Carlos Santiago were working in their auto repair shop in the Lents neighborhood, when they observed a car drive slowly through their lot and then begin to leave. As the car reached the street it stopped and at that point an unknown person approached the vehicle on foot, drew a pistol and began shooting at the car. The car sped away and the shooter fled on foot.

> We covered this story, as well. CLICK HERE to view it.

Despite the inherent danger to themselves, Crooks, Rogers, and Santiago chased the suspect on foot, keeping him in sight, in an effort to aid police. At one point the suspect stopped running and shot at the trio several times. After eventually losing sight of the suspect, the three men were able to give police very accurate descriptions of the suspect and the suspect’s actions. Based on the information they provided, the suspect was apprehended and charged with several counts of Attempted Aggravated Murder.

For their selfless actions and courage in aiding police officers, Brent Crooks, Thomas Rogers, and Carlos Santiago were awarded the Civilian Medal of Heroism.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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