Many people believe policemen and women sit in their cars, pull people over, eat doughnuts and do paper work. It's an old stereotype but one that keeps hanging on. They might say, "Nothing ever happens in Berlin." That is until something happens...and who do you call?
Wednesday night, the Berlin Police Department took a big step towards putting those stereotypes to rest as it hosted its first-ever Awards Ceremony in a packed Town Council chamber.
Those in attendance heard many stories of courage and valor as well as stories of persistence and dedication. The simple fact is it has never been more dangerous to be a police officer according to Chief Paul Fitzgerald.
"Police work has never been more dangerous," Fitzgerald said. "More officers have been shot in the last year than in recent history. We have incidents in town that are very dangerous from the knife attack on the Berlin Turnpike to the person shooting at officers on Peck Street. Danger knows no boundaries and we have seen that here in town."
Officers Todd Lentini, Ryan Gould and Shawn Solek were behind the idea of the Awards Ceremony.
"We were giving awards to the officers during roll call for the great things they were doing and other towns were having huge ceremonies to honor their police officers," Lentini said. "I didn't think we were doing an adequate enough job of recognizing our guys.
"We started working on it last fall so it's been about eight months now. I was really happy with the turnout. The next step is to get more publicity and maybe move it to the middle school or high school and get the whole community involved."
Notables in attendance were Mayor Adam Salina, Deputy Mayor Steve Morelli, the entire five members of the Police Commission; several retired officers as well as many members of the town's volunteer fire departments.
"For a first attempt I thought it went really was and was a big success," Fitzgerald said. "The turnout was great and diverse. We are going to try to do it annually on May 15, which is Peace Officer Memorial Day as proclaimed by John F. Kennedy (in 1962). It is also Police Memorial Week in Washington D.C. so the timing is perfect."
Winning Merit Awards were: Officer Joseph Linskey, Officer Jeffrey Veach, Michael Manning and Ryan Gould. Officer Eric Chase and K-9 Zeusz, Sergeant Todd Lentini, Officer Steven Kostka, Officer Barry Hertzler, Detective Sean McMahon (two), earned Department Service Awards. The Chief's Award went to Michael Silverio, Shawn Solek and Doug Bartolomeo. Officer David Cruickshank was awarded the Jeffrey G. Casner Award, Officers Michael Manning and Brian Falco won the Life Saving Award. The Valor Award went to Sergeant Mark Soneson, Officer Scott Calderone and Officer Michael Silverio.
The officers won the awards for incidents that happened during the past year. The video attached tells the story of what happened in the Peck Street officer-involved shooting in May.
"The thing about this job is that it is different every day," Lentini said. "Six of seven days of the week we do the usual, mundane alarms, pulling cars over, writing tickets. But on that seventh day, something out of the ordinary happens and who are you going to call? The police and fire, we are the ones that run into the building when people are running out.
"We are mandated for certain training but we have a lot of guys in this department who are into other things and bring that expertise back to the department. That is great because we don't have to go anywhere for training when officers in our own department can do it for us. Tat is a big difference from when I started on the force. We all seem to have our own specialties."