For a fourth year, the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce honored men and women of the police and fire departments and emergency services in city, as officers, firefighters, and emergency services personnel were honored for acts of bravery and outstanding performance. The Public Safety Awards Luncheon, sponsored by Centennial Bank, Fletcher Auto Group, Ashley Group, Smith Family Funeral Home, Baptist Health-North Little Rock, The Hughes Agency, and the Chamber of Commerce, was held Thursday, March 30, at the Wyndham Riverfront in North Little Rock.
The celebration of the achievements of police, fire, and emergency services achievement during 2016 had a bit of a somber note this year, with attendees called to a moment of silence to remember Fire Chief Jim Murphy, who died March 18 following heart surgery. Murphy had headed the department since 2014.
“At his funeral he was described as a man who lived his life by two words; courage and love,” said John Owens, chamber president and master of ceremonies of the awards luncheon. “I think that’s a good description of Chief Murphy.”
Two Police Department teams were awarded for their contributions during the year, 15 individual awards, and a fire department unit citation award were given out during the ceremony, which John Owens, the chamber president, called a thank you from the community.
“We love our first responders,” Owens said. “You are the people we call when we have a problem we can’t resolve, be that a fire, a customer with a health problem, or a bad guy trying to rob us.”
North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith praised the city’s emergency services as setting the standard other emergency service agencies strive for.
“Our police, our fire, our first responders, you are the benchmark for the state of Arkansas,” Smith told the group. “Everybody wants to know how we do what we do, how we have such a wonderful fire department and how we have such a wonderful police department.”
Presenting the awards for Police Department recipients was Police Chief Mike Davis, for Fire Department recipients was Interim Fire Chief Gerald Tucker, and for Emergency Services was Director Leonard Montgomery.
The first team award went to the Police Department Crimes Against Persons Unit, headed by Sgt. J.L. Dancy, and manned by Detectives Michael Gibbons, Gary Jones, Paul Cantrell, Joe Green, Cody Brown, Chip Goree, and Dane Pedersen.
Owens noted that during 2016, 12 homicides were committed in North Little Rock, and “all 12 were cleared by arrest, resulting in a 19 percent improvement over 2014 and 2015.”
The Problem Oriented Policing Unit, formed to work with all divisions to identify and concentrate on problem areas in the city, as well as the types of crimes being reported most often in those areas.
The unit consists of Sgt. Danny Haley, and officers Jeffrey Elenbaas, Ryan Davidson, and Marcus Perez.
“They were called upon for the expert knowledge of gang activity and their uncanny ability to identify and locate suspects involved in criminal activity,” said Owens.
He said the unit was responsible for making 376 arrests during 2016 on 357 felonies and 456 misdemeanor charges. The unit was responsible for the seizure of 45 firearms, over $50,000 in cash, six pounds of marijuana, 11 ounces of methamphetamine, five ounces of cocaine, two ounce of heroin, 736 dose units of illegal pharmaceuticals, and 10 stolen vehicles.
“They were busy,” Owens said.
The Fire Department unit under the command of Battalion Chief Alfred Cerrato received the Unit Citation Award for the rescue of a suicidal man last October. The man was threatening to jump from a cliff located just to the west of the North Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police Lodge
Owens named Cerrato, Capt. William Davis, Lt. Charles Hobson, Lt. Corey Eisenhower, Lt. Timothy Mahan, Dustin Free of the Fire Marshal’s office, and firefighters Matthew Mayfield, Nicholas Tetkoskie, Jeff Bennett, Douglas Elms, Dennis Poole, Michael Mathis, and Brian Oakley as the recipients of the Unit Citation Award.
Earlier, Lt. Eisenhower was presented with the Individual Citation Award for his actions in that same rescue. Owens said Eisenhower, a veteran combat Marine was called in to talk with the patient after he asked to talk with a veteran. Eisenhower was brought in to replace a department negotiator who had been talking with the man since the arrival of rescue units.
“Because of Lt. Eisenhower’s calm, collected approach to the patient, he was able to successfully convince the patient to come off the ledge and get the help he needed,” Owens said. “It is believed if not for the actions of Corey Eisenhower at the scene; the patient would have succeeded in taking his own life.”
Individual awards presented to Police Department officers: Leadership, Sgt. Kenny Livingston; Life Saving, Officer Eric Cheatham, Merit, Officer Karen DiMatteo, Merit, Victim’s Advocate Charlene James, and Chief’s Award, Detective Michael Gibbons.
Individual Awards presented to Fire Department personnel: Firefighter of the Year, Firefighter Steve Lankford; Emergency Medical Firefighter of the Year, Lt. Kyle Simpson; Fire Officer of the Year, Capt. Alan Tetkoskie; Fire Service Educator of the Year, Capt. Rick Albers; Apprenticeship Firefighter of the Year, Firefighter David Robinson; Individual Citation Award, Lt. Corey Eisenhower; Fire Service Support Staff Award, Fleet Mechanic Eric Montgomery; Commendation Award, Capt. Derrick Grimes.
Individual Awards presented to North Little Rock Emergency Services: Meritorious Service Medal, Karen Rollins; Meritorious Achievement Medal, Nickolas Beck.