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Government Police/Fire

West Hartford Police Department Honors Citizens and Officers for Exceptional Deeds

Sgt. Aaron Thomas (right) shakes hands with West Hartford Police Department leadership (from left) Assistant Chief Larry Terra, Assistant Chief Rob Riccobon, and Chief Vernon Riddick at the awards ceremony on Sept. 22, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Members of the community and West Hartford Police officers were honored during a ceremony at Town Hall on Sept. 22, 2022.

West Hartford Police Chief Vernon Riddick with Citizens Award recipient Dr. Avital Porat. West Hartford Police Department’s Awards Ceremony on Sept. 22, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

Acts of excellence, bravery, and sacrifice – the exceptional deeds of members of the West Hartford Police Department as well as members of the community – were recognized during an awards ceremony at Town Hall on Sept. 22, 2022.

Family, friends, and state and town officials, and colleagues attended the event, which is typically held on an annual basis but had not taken place since May 2019 due to the pandemic. Although not all were able to attend, the ceremony included honorees from the years 2019 through 2022.

Town Council member Carol Blanks, chair of the Public Safety Committee, speaks at a West Hartford Police Department’s Awards Ceremony on Sept. 22, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Carol Blanks, chair of the Town Council’s Public Safety Committee, acknowledged all those who were receiving awards, as well as those who support the town’s public safety efforts. “I see exactly what you do,” she said, expressing appreciation on behalf of the Mayor Shari Cantor and the Town Council. “I want to congratulate every one who is going to receive an acknowledgement or award or this morning, and continue to encourage you to do the good work that you do every day.”

Town Manager Rick Ledwith speaks at a West Hartford Police Department’s Awards Ceremony on Sept. 22, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Town Manager Rick Ledwith noted the “courage, commitment, and sacrifice” by members of the police department and public safety dispatchers, adding that behind every award “is a story of heroism and bravery.”

While the recipients might say they were just doing their job, “We know you were doing more than that … and it’s important for us as a town to recognize you for your actions that went above and beyond, and by doing so we know that you put yourself at personal risk, and for that sacrifice we are forever grateful,” Ledwith said, adding the town is fortunate to have all of them.

It’s also important to honor the residents and other citizens, “who saw something, said something, and did something to ensure the safety of their neighbors in our town,” said Ledwith.

Chief Vernon Riddick speaks at a West Hartford Police Department’s Awards Ceremony on Sept. 22, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Chief Vernon Riddick said the West Hartford Police Department appreciates the support it has from the town, which provides the department with its “needs” and many of its “wants,” yet also holds them accountable. He also thanked those being honored for stepping out of their comfort zone, to go above and beyond.

“To the West Hartford Police Department, my heart, my joy, I could not be more proud to work alongside you and see what you do each and every day,” Riddick said.

Officers put their priorities over their preferences, with the main priority being “purpose” – and that sometimes means putting their lives in danger to save someone else’s. “I applaud you, I appreciate you,” Riddick said.

West Hartford Police Chief Vernon Riddick with Citizens Award recipient Arthur Couch. West Hartford Police Department’s Awards Ceremony on Sept. 22, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Several of those receiving Citizen Awards for incidents dating back to 2019 were able to attend the ceremony, including Arthur Couch. In August 2019, Couch identified one of the suspects who had stolen a bicycle that Couch had previously serviced. He recognized the bicycle, and provided police with the serial number which led to the arrest of the suspect on charges that included larceny.

Dr. Karyn Hansen (who was not present) and Richard Cosgrove were both recognized with Citizen Awards for attending to an elderly man who collapsed while shoveling snow on Spring Lane in December 2019. The man was unresponsive, without a pulse, and Hansen provided chest compressions while Cosgrove called 911. Hansen continued CPR, and the man regained his pulse before being transported to the hospital.

West Hartford Police Chief Vernon Riddick with Citizens Award recipient Richard Cosgrove. West Hartford Police Department’s Awards Ceremony on Sept. 22, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Dr. Avital Porat, an emergency physician at Hartford Hospital, was off duty in April 2021 when she arrived at Veterans Memorial Rink with her three young children. The adult daughter of a 76-year-old woman was asking for help. Her mother, who was inside her car, was feeling weak and faint, and having trouble breathing. Porat monitored the woman, and kept her calm until police and EMTs arrived at the scene.

Gregory Adams, Manueal Martinez, and Lucelly Garcia were not in attendance, but the stories of their actions were shared. Adams was recognized for successfully performing the Heimlich maneuver on someone who had started choking while eating dinner in a local restaurant in July 2019.

Martinez and Lucelly immediately called 911 in December 2020 after a neighbor had been ringing their doorbell incessantly, told them he couldn’t breathe, and then collapsed. First responders were able to get to the scene quickly and perform emergency medical care.

Members of the police department and public safety dispatchers were honored with Life Saving Awards, as well as Unit Citations and Departmental Citations at the awards ceremony.

West Hartford Police Chief Vernon Riddick with Life Saving Award winner PSD Laura Cashman. West Hartford Police Department’s Awards Ceremony on Sept. 22, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Life Saving Awards were given to Public Safety Dispatcher Laura Cashman for an incident in March 2021 where was able to successfully coach the caller to perform CPR for her unresponsive son while emergency responders were on the way. The patient survived.

Ofc. Maria Albini (left) and Bloomfield Ofc. George Farrah were among those who received Life Saving Awards at the West Hartford Police Department’s Awards Ceremony on Sept. 22, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Ofc. Kelly Shimo and Ofc. Maria Albini, along with off-duty Bloomfield Police Ofc. George Farrah, were honored for successfully negotiating with a juvenile who was planning to jump from a bridge earlier this year. They held onto her until she was on safe ground, and transported to a local hospital for evaluation.

West Hartford Police Chief Vernon Riddick with Life Saving Award winner Ofc. Maria Albini. West Hartford Police Department’s Awards Ceremony on Sept. 22, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Ofc. Jack Sanford was also honored with a Life Saving Award for saving the life of a man who was attempting to fatally stab himself in January 2022, gaining control of his arm and taking the knife from his possession.

West Hartford Police Chief Vernon Riddick with Life Saving Award winner Ofc. Jack Sanford. West Hartford Police Department’s Awards Ceremony on Sept. 22, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Unit Citations were awarded to a large group of department members, including Ofcs. Ryan Dudzinski, Peter Kisela, Nicholas Sanford, Nichola Sachetti, Lamar Bowsky, Eric Butkiewicz, David Santora, Robert Potz, and Jeffrey Swank; Sgts. Sara Nagle ad Raymond Swank; Dets. John Cardone and Brandon Dudzinski; and Public Safety Dispatchers Nicole Salter and Judith Morrell for their actions related to a kidnapping/stolen car/car crash incident in July 2021. Police first received notice that a vehicle had been stolen with a 2-year-old child inside it. Police were able to use tire deflation sticks to slow the stolen car, but it then crashed head-on into another vehicle. The suspect, who was 16, fled on foot but was quickly apprehended by police. The child, still in its carseat, had been dropped off in a parking lot and was quickly located and was unharmed. The suspect was arrested on a slew of charges.

A large number of members of the West Hartford Police Department received Unit Citations in connection with a kidnapping / stolen car / car crash incident in July 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Public Safety Dispatchers who were on duty throughout Tropical Storm Isaias in August 2020 also received Unit Citations for maintaining calm dispositions as they fielded more than 500 calls for service in a 24-hour period, more than double any past incident. Dispatchers recognized included Keleigh Brown, Eileen Bartlett-Clark, Kathleen Baker, Cashman, Melissa Cox, Jesse Kristoff, Danielle Lagueux, Lauren Lanza, Michele Lyons, Morrell, and Salter.

West Hartford Police Chief Vernon Riddick with Sgt. Michael Boughton, who earned a Departmental Citation. West Hartford Police Department’s Awards Ceremony on Sept. 22, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Departmental Citations were awarded to Sgt. Michael Boughton and Ofc. Merrick Forader for work in 2021 with the Greater Hartford Task Force, for apprehending a suspect who was driving a stolen car, and in the possession of a loaded handgun, drugs, paraphernalia, and more than $4,000 in cash.

Sgt. Aaron Thomas received a Departmental Citation for an incident in January 2022 during which, while on routine patrol around 2 a.m, he saw smoke and a located a vehicle that had struck a utility pole and was fleeing the scene. He pulled in front of the suspect vehicle but the driver fled. Thomas followed, realized the license plate was stolen, and was able to obtain the support of other officers who helped stop the fleeing car. The suspect was apprehended, arrested, and determined to be under the influence of alcohol, and found in possession of a loaded handgun, ammunition, drugs, and paraphernalia.

Sgt. Amanda Martin and Capt. Dan Moffo presented the awards to citizens and fellow department members. Lt. Thomas Lazure seven as emcee of the event.

Lt. Thomas Lazure was the emcee of the West Hartford Police Department’s Awards Ceremony on Sept. 22, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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