Laurel Police Chief Rich McLaughlin said the department's awards ceremony is an annual opportunity for the city, the department and residents to recognize outstanding officers within the force.
"Every year I get more and more amazed with the things that they do," he said. "We concentrate a lot on discipline; this is a form of positive discipline. It's a way for us to say, 'job well done.'"
McLaughlin said this year was "probably the hardest year" to determine winners.
The most notable award, Officer of the Year, was given to Cpl. Jesse Conyngham, a five-year veteran. According to Audrey Barnes, communications director for the city, Conyngham is a shift supervisor in the department's patrol division in addition to being a K-9 handler and the K-9 unit supervisor.
In 2013, Conyngham and his K-9 Gaston were the top producing team in the agency with more than 30 drug arrests.
During the ceremony on Thursday, May 15, Barnes singled out two specific incidents -- one drug-related and one bank robbery, where Conyngham excelled. The first was a May 2013 incident in which Conyngham recovered several handguns, marijuana, stolen phones, televisions and lock boxes after a routine traffic stop.
Barnes said Laurel police learned afterward that the items were linked to two home invasion robberies, multiple carjackings, credit card thefts and fraud cases in Howard and Prince George's counties.
In February 2014, Conyngham and Gaston assisted in the pursuit and apprehension of a man charged with robbing a Laurel bank. The chase lasted 20 minutes and crossed multiple jurisdictions before ending in Columbia.
McLaughlin said Conyngham is "a phenomenal, well-rounded officer," and that he epitomizes what an officer should be.
He noted his outstanding work in drug arrests but also his leadership of the K-9 unit.
Maj. Bob Althoff, who oversees the awards, said Conyngham goes "above and beyond," and is "deserving of recognition."
The department hands out a variety of awards to officers and civilians who have assisted the department. This year's Outstanding Citizenship Award was given to Jeremy Gruber, who donated 100 automatic external defibrillators to the city in February.
Sgt. Donald Winstead was honored with the Life Saving Award after successfully performing CPR on a 1-year-old girl who had stopped breathing in her home on March 30.
There were two recipients of the Chief's Award -- Pfc. Steve Sarver and Pfc. Aaron Wadell. Sarver was honored for his willingness to take on extra responsibilities McLaughlin called "above and beyond." Wadell was honored for his willingness to train new officers and his work with the department's Facebook page, in addition to his duties as a patrol officer.
Officers and police employees who received unit citations include: Sgt. Erik Lynn, Cpl. Erik Eagle, Pfc. Aaron Waddell, Pfc. Thomas Houck, Sgt. Anthony Miskovish, Pfc. Rodrigo Crisostomo, Pfc. Clayton Ammerman, Pfc. Steve Sarver, Pfc. Zachary Rexine, Sgt. Stephen Ivory, Cpl. Jason Sarver, Pfc. Matt Jordan, Cpl. Scott Craiger, Sgt. Stephen Ivory, Cpl. Imtiaz Alli, Pfc. Kezzi Henderson, Pfc. Michael Skidmore, Pfc. Steve Crass, Pfc. Kevin O'Neil, Sgt. Erik Lynn, Cpl. Donald Parker, Pfc. Capri Rice, Ofc. Kevin Fillinich, Sgt. Charles Boswell, Sgt. Randy Snearly, Sgt. Jordan Perretta, Cpl. Jesse Conyngham, Cpl. Joseph Johnson, Pfc. Adam Cheek, Pfc. Teddy Bell, Pfc. Andrew Derouin, Pfc. Mark Schmidt, Pfc. Michael Spencer, Ofc. Jonathan Metcalf, Captain Patrick Bray, PCS. Brianne Kleinschmidt, PCS Robert Bain, Sgt. James Watson, Cpl. Jeffrey VanCleave, Pfc. Robert Reed, Pfc. Erik Salenieks, Pfc. Donald Rohsner, Pfc. Kevin O'Neil, Ofc. Joseph Hayden, Cpl. John Szalankiewicz, Ofc. Alfie Acol, Cpl. Zachary Barry, PCS Lindsey Carmen, Pfc. Michael Spencer and Cpl. John Mrozek.
Officers who received service awards include: Pfc. Matthew Jordan, Pfc. Aaron Waddell, Pfc. Steve Sarver, Pfc. Andrew Derouin. Pfc. Marcus Currie, Pfc. Capri Rice, PCS Brianne Kleinschmidt, Cpl. Jesse Conyngham and Pfc. Clayton Ammerman.
Officers who received the Award of Merit include: Sgt. Charles Boswell, Cpl. Imtiaz Alli, Pfc. Clayton Ammerman, Pfc. Adam Cheek, Sgt. Stephen Ivory, Pfc. Aaron Waddell.
Administrative Assistant Joanie Noland was honored as The Civilian Employee of the Year.