By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Protests condemning police brutality in the “Black Lives Matter” movement can easily overshadow the heroism of law enforcement officers.
The 15th annual Seattle Police Foundation (SPF) award banquet, aimed to share stories of police officers’ exceptional work, was held on Oct. 28 at Seattle’s Westin Hotel.
“What doesn’t make the headlines are how often our officers come across people in need,” said Laura Mathers, SPF president and CEO. “How often they dig into their own pockets to buy a family groceries, diapers, clothes, and even beds for families, so that kids don’t have to sleep on the floor. How often? Every day in our city!”
“This event will help boost the morale of officers,” said Kay Godefroy, one of the community members receiving an SPF award for her public safety programs. “It’s a different time for the officers with so much scrutiny,” said Godefroy. “It’s hard for all of them. We can’t stereotype anybody. You can’t paint all the officers with the same brush regarding the protests against the cops. They are trying hard to make the community safer and interact with the community.
“It’s time for officers and community members to come together, and [recognize] some of the progressive work they are doing,” said Godefroy.
Over 60 law enforcement officers were being recognized for saving lives, going above and beyond, leadership to deploy strategies ending the riot on May Day, dealings with gangs, and many other incidences illustrating their negotiation skills in de-escalating situations of threats to civilians.
Some of the award recipients have performed remarkable service. For instance, Officer Jeffery Thompson has the “uncanny ability to record faces and names of everyone he meets (and often dates of birth) in his head. He is so good that it is common for precinct officers and detectives to call on him almost daily to assist with identifications,” according to the program description.
There was Detective Rolf Norton’s investigation of a homicide case, which led to the arrest and conviction of the men in connection with a murder. The victim’s widow was grateful for Norton’s work and for how he personally returned her husband’s wedding ring and Bible.
In another case, Officers Ryan Beecroft, Jayme Beckon, Wesley Collier, Hudson Kang, and Ken Loux saved the life of a suspect they shot. The man attempted to steal a car, and then drew two knives and came at the responding officer.
And Officers Tamara Floyd, Nicholas Plemel, Melody Rios, Samuel Specht, Demethra Behn, Quindella Martin, and Mark Wong attempted to save the lives of both the victim and the suspect of a stolen vehicle after the suspect collided with the victim’s car. They did CPR, but the victim didn’t make it. After discovering a dog was pinned underneath the victim, Wong climbed back into the rear of the car, pulled the dog out, and rushed him to a veterinary hospital. But the dog died on the operating table.
Even off duty, police officers are never truly off. Such was the case of Sergeant Ann Martin. After witnessing a one-car crash, Martin gave life-saving CPR on the side of a Bellevue road to an unconscious driver, and comforting his 12-year-old son before medics arrived. The driver was released from the hospital three days later.
Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said the department’s 2016 approval rating is 72 percent, up from last year’s 64 percent.
“Let’s face it — being a police officer has never been what one would characterize as being easy,” said Mathers. “Our officers are called to do things every day that put them in proximity of dangerous situations and dangerous people. They are the people we call when we are most vulnerable and in need of help. They run towards danger to serve their community. And they stand for everything that is good in our community and all that is good in each of us. Honor, integrity, safety, a helping hand.”
SPF board chair Mark Pinkowski said the event “has been a visible sign of support, for the women and men of the Seattle Police Department.” More than 860 people attended the banquet. Mathers said the officers enjoyed the event — “an awesome event capped off with a chance to stay and celebrate. One of the signs of a successful event is when the formal program is over….. to still have several hundred people in the ballroom visiting with each other and enjoying each other’s company.”
The amount of funds raised has not been announced. Mathers said under O’Toole’s leadership, the money raised will be used on connecting with the community and professional development for officers in community partnerships-programs, employee advanced training, and cutting-edge and specialized technology and equipment.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.