Last Tuesday, the Westminster Police Department gathered with friends, loved ones and family to celebrate for its annual awards and promotion ceremony. This year’s awards included: Police Officer of the Year, Civilian Employee of the Year, Supervisor of the Year, Police Rookie of the Year, Catherine’s Cause Award for Excellence in DUI Enforcement, the Lifesaving Award, Chief’s Commendation, Unit Citation, and Community Partnership Award.
Although many are aware that the City of Westminster celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2014, many are not aware that in that same year the Westminster Police Department celebrated its 175th anniversary, making it, by many measures, one of the oldest departments in the country.
Since Westminster’s very early beginnings, public safety has been of great importance to our community. The number one reason families came together to form a community in 1764 was public safety.
In the early days of Westminster, just after the end of King George’s War, 1744-1748, and the French and Indian War, 1754-1763, which witnessed a great deal of bloodshed in Central Maryland, assuring public safety was of paramount importance to the early leaders of the community.
The first reference to public safety in Westminster is found in Article Five of Westminster’s first Acts of Incorporation, which passed Feb. 5, 1819. The first recorded Constable was William Grumbine, appointed on June 20, 1839.
As a point of comparison, Scotland Yard was formed in 1829 by Sir Robert (Bobby) Peel, which is why many early police officers were called “Peelers” or “Bobbies.” The New York Police Department was formed in 1844 — five years after one of the first references to a Westminster police department.
Last Tuesdaym the first order of business was the promotion of Jeff Schuster to the rank of captain. Schuster was hired by the Baltimore City Police Department in 1996 and graduated the police academy in 1997. In 2005, Schuster was hired by the Westminster Police Department. Schuster has also received many awards and commendations during his police career. At Tuesday’s awards ceremony, Schuster was named the 2021 Supervisor of the Year.
Det. Mindy Phillips earned the Catherine’s Cause Award. Phillips is the Westminster Police Department’s top DUI enforcer for 2021. Catherine’s Cause is an advocacy group named in memory of Catherine Mullikin. Catherine was killed by a drunken driver on Nov. 28, 1998, at the age of 20. Catherine’s Cause is an anti-drunk driving organization dedicated to the education of people convicted of DUI or DWI.
Phillips was also named the 2021 Police Officer of the Year. Last year, she handled 2,433 service calls, wrote 164 incident reports, and arrested 13 drunk drivers. She made 21 criminal arrests, conducted 794 property checks, detected 447 traffic violations, conducted 228 hours of foot patrol, and conducted 23 selective traffic details.
Denise Heffernan was awarded the Community Partnership Award. As a registered nurse who works in the Nursing Bureau of the Carroll County Health Department, Heffernan quickly became a crucial point of contact for the staff during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pfc. Juan Rojas was awarded the Lifesaving Award. On Dec. 17, 2021, Rojas responded to a residence on E. Main Street for a reported overdose. He administered naloxone and immediately initiated CPR. Rojas was also named the 2021 Rookie of the Year.
The Unit Citation Award went to the Communications Division for exemplary service to the Westminster Police Department and to the citizens of Westminster during 2021. The dispatchers receiving the award were: Telecommunications Supervisor Lisa Cooper; Senior Telecommunications Specialist Nancy Pyne; Samantha Wilson, Mark Franklin, Frank Valenti, Daniel Nussbaum, Sarah Billington, and Parking Enforcement Officer Michaelle Leone
A second Unit Citation was awarded to the Carroll County Emergency Communications Center: Scott Campbell, director, Jack Brown, manager, Ashley Burgan, assistant manager, Samantha Flater, Adam Harris, Kerri Harris, and Nicole McGuire.
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The 2021 Chief’s Commendation went to Lt. Stephen Blackwell who is assigned to the Patrol Bureau as a patrol squad commander. Blackwell’s squads completed the highest number of incident reports, and they used the least amount of sick leave. Additionally, Blackwell’s patrol squads led the department in proactive criminal enforcement and in the number of traffic violations detected.
A second Chief’s Commendation went to Sgt. Michelle Donovan. Known for her ability to explain police work in detail, Donovan has established herself as a “go to” supervisor for advice when others are tasked with handling complicated situations or scenarios. Patrol squads A and B conducted 960 hours of foot patrols, made 133 adult arrests and 13 juvenile arrests, and addressed 3,532 traffic violations.
Another chief’s commendation award went to Det. Sgt. Richard Lambert. While assigned to the Criminal Investigation Bureau, Lambert was the primary investigator on 57 cases. His combined closure rate is 79%.
The 2021 Community Service Award went to Pfc. Victoria Ash, who is the department’s downtown outreach liaison. In 2021 Ash conducted 649 hours of foot patrols and 15 hours of bike patrols. She handled 233 calls for service.
Jennifer Quick was named the 2021 Civilian Employee of the Year. Quick has developed strong, professional relationships within the department and with city staff, which allow her to complete tasks, find answers to questions, and participate in projects in an efficient and effective manner.
Congratulations and thanks to all of the award recipients for their hard work throughout the year on behalf of the citizens of Westminster.the award recipients for their hard work throughout the year on behalf of the citizens of Westminster.
Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.