Senior Deputy First Class Richard Dean was recently recognized as the Harford County Sheriff's Office Deputy of the Year but later in the spring will receive the National Deputy of the Year Award for Merit.
Senior Deputy First Class Richard Dean was recently recognized as the Harford County Sheriff's Office Deputy of the Year but later in the spring will receive the National Deputy of the Year Award for Merit. (Matt Button / The Aegis)

Harford County Sheriff’s Office Senior Deputy First Class Richard Dean is earning top honors for his work locally and nationally.

A deputy since 2001, Dean will receive the Harford Sheriff’s Office Deputy of the Year award during an agency ceremony Thursday.

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In June, Dean will be presented the Charles “Bud” Meeks Award, Deputy Sheriff of the Year for Merit from the National Sheriffs’ Association, during the opening general session of the 2019 NSA Education and Technology Expo in Louisville, Kentucky.

Harford deputy to receive national sheriff's award for investigation into Gun Trace Task Force

The Harford County sheriff’s deputy whose investigation uncovered corruption in Baltimore City Police Department and led to charges of eight officers, will be honored next week with one of the National Sheriff’s Association’s top honors.

This is the second year in a row a Harford deputy has received the Meeks award — Det. Cpl. David McDougall earned the award last year for his investigation into a drug-trafficking organization that uncovered corruption in Baltimore City Police’s Gun Trace Task Force.

The Sheriff’s Office award is given for Dean’s work in 2018, the national award takes an entire career into consideration.

“We have a lot deputies that work at the agency that work hard every day and do a lot of stuff that goes unseen by the public, so I was honored that I was picked for the awards,” Dean said. “You read stuff every day in the papers or on TV that police or deputies do in other agencies. Of all the stuff you see deputies do, I was surprised and shocked that I got that.”

Dean works for the agency’s crime suppression unit, puts in hours of overtime, helps care for his two sons — one of whom has special needs — and still finds time to volunteer and give back to the community when he can.

“Courage honor and integrity are the three core foundations within our unit, within our Sheriff’s Office,” Lt. Tom Gamble, who nominated Dean for both awards, said. “And when I think of those words ... I’ve worked in a lot of different units in the agency, I’ve worked with a lot different individuals. However, with those three words in mind, as well as the accomplishments and the challenges Rich has been able to overcome, no one could hold a candle to Rich.”

After patrolling in the Edgewood area — the county’s highest crime sector — for more than 17 years, Dean recently made the move to the crime suppression unit to make it a little easier to be home in the evenings to help his wife care for their 9-year-old second-grader and their 14-year-old son who has arteriovenous malformations, also known as AVMs, and requires around-the-clock care.

Dean, 41, graduated from Bel Air High School in 1996 and began working for the Sheriff’s Office in 2001. He always knew he wanted to be a deputy.

“I grew up in the county, this was my police department growing up as a kid,” he said.

Dean is humble when it comes to talking about himself and the awards being bestowed on him. His supervisors, like Gamble and Capt. Eric Gonzalez, are not shy about praising his work.

“In my opinion, the way he carries himself, the way he does his job day in day out, the way way treats everyone the same way. It was a no-brainer, it really was,” Gamble said. “I’ve worked alongside him, I’ve supervised him. I couldn’t be prouder to work and to know someone like Rich.”

Gonzalez called him one of the top 1 percent of law enforcement “doing the right thing on- and off-duty and are hard-working.”

Instead of leaving his home life at home, Dean brings it to work with him — it’s what makes him a better deputy, Dean said.

“I’ve been through struggles, I’ve been through trouble. Nobody ever calls 911 to get someone to come for something good,” Dean said. “When I went to calls, I have compassion for people, because I know. Police have helped me before.”

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Dean said his older son has four or five — possibly more — AVMs in the part of his brain that affects motor functions. An AVM is an abnormal tangle of blood vessels connecting arteries and veins, which disrupts normal blood flow and oxygen circulation, according to www.mayoclinic.org.

Dean’s son had a stroke at 6 months old and is weaker than most kids.

In 2013, Dean’s son had an pseudo aneurysm hemorrhage in his nose, something doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where his son is treated, had never seen before. He went into cardiac and pulmonary arrest at home, and Dean had to perform CPR on his son.

In 2015, his son had a seizure and was in the hospital for 10 weeks. He slept for nine days straight.

Most recently, last summer, he was diagnosed with scoliosis that required spinal fusion surgery. Dean and his wife struggled over whether their son should have the surgery. Their son would have to lay on his face for the surgery and they were worried about the AVMs. But the scoliosis was compressing his lungs and if he got pneumonia or another similar illness, he might not survive.

They went ahead with the surgery in July and it was successful. In September, he got pneumonia.

“Surgery is the only reason he made it through,” Dean said.

Giving back

After their son got sick in 2013, the Deans knew they wanted to help, somehow, and they started the Day of Giving.

During a two-month hospital stay, their son needed several blood transfusions.

“We see nurses running up the hall carrying bags for him,” Dean said. “We had a lot of time to sit in the hospital, to see how important it is, and as soon as he was getting better, we wanted to try and do something. So we started the blood drives.”

Around the same time they began collecting pillowcases for the kids at Hopkins.

“So many kids are there, they go through them as quickly as they get them,” Dean said.

Initially St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Bel Air let them use their facility, so part of their Day of Giving was to collect food for the church’s food pantry.

A couple years later, the Deans teamed up with the Casey Cares Foundation to collect items for them, since their son was part of the organization.

Casey Cares includes the entire family, Dean said, which meant their younger son could be part of events like throwing out the first pitch at an Orioles game or attending a Ravens game.

They also collect pajamas for Casey Cares, which sends home movie kits to kids who can’t leave their homes. The kits have pajamas, money to rent a movie and popcorn and candy.

Last winter, Dean and his younger son planned to volunteer for a night at the rotating homeless shelter. One night turned into a week because his son wanted to help.

“If you listen to their stories, they’re in their position not because they want to be,” Dean said. “They want help.”

Listening, Gonzalez said, is something Dean does extremely well.

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“If he goes to calls or is out on the street, he really listens,” he said. “The information he has is amazing. He hears something and puts it away. It makes people feel like they’re really being listened to.”

“I’m just proud of him. He deserves it. You can tell by his demeanor how humble of a man he is,” Gamble said. “He’s never asked for anything, truly never really asked for anything. He never expects anything. It just goes toward the character of the person you’re talking to.”

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