Twenty-nine police officers, firefighters, emergency workers, and support personnel were honored last weekat the annual North Little Rock Public Safety Awards luncheon.
The event was presented by the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, Centennial Bank, the Ashley Group, and Smith Family Funeral Homes, in partnership with Baptist Health Medical Center-NLR and CHI – St. Vincent North. The annual event awards public safety workers in North Little Rock for heroism, leadership, meritorious service, individual and unit achievement, and special recognition.
Before getting started, Police Chief Mike Davis presented Faye Brown, the executive secretary to the police chief, with a dozen red roses to commemorate her 50 years working for the City of North Little Rock as of April 1.
North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith noted that Brown had worked for his father years ago. “Faye was my dad’s secretary years ago. She stared working for him when I was in 11th grade,” he said.
The first award, for Emergency Medical Firefighter of the Year, was presented posthumously. Firefighter Eli Staton, who joined the North Little Rock Fire Department in 2013, was a five year veteran of the department. The 26-year-old firefighter died at his Bryant home February 4 of undetermined causes. Assistant Fire Chief Beau Buford described Staton as a consummate professional whose upbeat personality was an inspiration with those who served with him.
“He will be remembered as a dedicated firefighter and paramedic,” Beauford said. “He left this world too soon and he will be missed by his firefighting family.”
The award was accepted by Staton’s wife, Allie, and his parents, Jo n and Michelle Staton.
Other awards presented included an Individual Citation Award, presented to Lt. Gabe Trobis for his actions at the scene of a man threatening suicide. On September 24, Lt. Trobis was riding on one of two engines dispatched to the scene of a possible jumper on the Arkansas River Bridge on I-440. Buford said that Trobis asked permission to approach the man and talk to him.
“He began talking to the man by asking if he was okay,” Buford said. “He found out the man felt overwhelmed by his problems. They talked about how hard life can be and how problems can sometimes become overwhelming. Lt. Trobis told the man that he too had problems that seemed sometimes to be overwhelming.”
Buford said the two continued to talk for several more minutes until the man agreed to get in the ambulance where he could begin the process of getting help.
“As the man was getting into the ambulance, he told Lt. Trobis that if the firefighters had turned around and gotten back into their truck, he would have jumped,” said Buford.
Following the presentation of the Fire Department awards, North Little Rock Police Chief Mike Davis announced two leadership awards and a director’s award presented to members of North Little Rock Office of Emergency Services. The Office of Emergency Services is responsible for maintaining the Emergency Management Office and the 911 Communications Center.
Public Safety Lead Dispatcher Leanna Grady was awarded one of the two Leadership Awards, presented for her job performance and leadership abilities.
“She has used her previous experience to implement positive changes to the center,” said Davis, who credited Grady with assisting in updating the center’s geographic records and response plans, and said her leadership had been a major factor in raising the morale of the dispatchers.
Public Safety Dispatcher Eric Bonnes also received a Leadership Award, presented for his training abilities and assistance to the lead dispatcher, as well as coolness under pressure evidenced during a recent extended pursuit during Bonnes’ shift.
The Director’s Award was presented to Deputy Emergency Services Coordinator Bud Gray, who has held that position since 2004. Davis said Gray had revamped the training program to get dispatchers up to speed quickly and developed a set of dispatcher guide cards for fast reference in routing calls. Davis noted that during a period when the 911 Center suffered from chronic staff shortages, Gray would often adjust his own schedule to help cut some of the overtime hours other staff members were having to work.
“He was instrumental in getting legislation passed that established minimum standards for dispatcher training in Arkansas,” said Davis. “The Arkansas Law Enforcement Academy often calls upon him to teach dispatcher courses statewide.”
Four North Little Rock police officers were recognized for their lifesaving efforts when confronted by drug overdose victims due to opiate intoxication. Officers Justin Cross, Michael Bowen, Matt Peach, and Sgt. Matt Anderson. The four officers were presented with Narcan Recognition Awards earlier that day for successful administration of the opioid counter-agent Narcan while answering calls to suspected drug overdose cases.
“Today, we say thank you for their quick actions that allowed the individuals in question a second chance,” said Davis.
Narcan, the brand name for Naloxone, was developed I 1961 by scientists searching for a treatment for opioid related constipation, and it was soon discovered to counteract the effects of an opioid overdose, restoring breathing and consciousness within minutes. In 2015, a nasal spray delivery system was approved by the FDA, and Narcan began to see widespread use in overdose treatment. Today, in North Little Rock, Narcan kits are standard issue for all police officers and are stocked on all Fire Department apparatus.
Two North Little Rock police officers, Robert Emary and Sean McGowan, were presented with Lifesaving Awards for their fast actions under pressure that resulted in victims’ lives being saved who otherwise would likely have died.
Officer Emary was recognized for his actions last summer responding to a call regarding a subject who had been shot. Upon his arrival, Chief Davis said Emary realized the victim was losing a great deal of blood, so he applied a tourniquet and stayed with the victim until paramedics arrived to take him to UAMS. It turned out the victim’s femoral artery had been severed.
“Without Officer Emary’s quick action that day, the subject would have undoubtedly lost his life,” Davis said.
Last December, Officer McGowan was the first officer on the scene after a teenager in North Little Rock was struck by a train. McGowan applied a tourniquet to the teen’s leg, which Davis said was responsible for saving the teen’s life.
Kandace Sanders, a Support Services Division Customer Service Assistant, was presented with a Merit Award for her actions last year to assist an elderly man who had received a ticket for a faulty taillight, and wanted to pay his fine. When he told her he had gotten the taillight repaired and she offered to dismiss the citation if he would take a photo of the working taillight as evidence of the repair.
“The gentleman advised that he didn’t know how to take pictures with his phone so Kandace went out and took the photo for him, allowing him to avoid paying the $190 fine,” Davis said.
Other awards presented at the luncheon included:
North Little Rock Fire Department -
• Firefighter of the Year – Firefighter Erick Free
• Fire Officer of the Year – Capt. Doug Davis
• Fire Service Educator of the Year – Lt. Toby Harrington
• Apprenticeship Firefighter of the Year – Firefighter Dameon Johnson
• Fire Service Support Staff –Capt. Billy Jones
• Unit Citation Award – Safety 1 – Lieutenants Mark Mahan, Brian Pioe, Sean Mahanay, and Ben Evans
• Fire Chief’s Award – Capt. Michael Holley
North Little Rock Police Department –
• Leadership Award – Lt Wesley Honeycutt; Special Operations Teams Commander
• Leadership Award – Lt. Patrick Thessing; Special Response Team Commander
• Leadership Award – Sgt. Rick Bibb; Crisis Negotiation Team Leader
• Leadership Award – Sgt. Larry Behnke; SWAT Team Leader
• Merit Award – Ben Tullos; NLRPD IT Department
• Achievement Award – Investigator Mike Brooks
• Chief’s Award – Sgt. Clint O’Kelley
Chief Davis noted that Sgt. Clint O’Kelley, who has been with the NLRPD since 2003, working first in Patrol, then CID, first working burglary, then as a homicide detective. Davis said O’Kelley sacrificed what would have been a certain promotion to concentrate on a homicide he was working. Although he had recently been promoted and transferred back to patrol, he continued working to close out the murder case, which involved a young mother and her unborn child.
“This homicide required many hours of tedious investigative work, which eventually resulted in the arrest of a subject who was a suspect in other shootings, and in drug trafficking in Pulaski County,” Davis said. “Once transferred to the Patrol Division, Clint continued to work this case, which eventually went to trial in 2017. Unfortunately, the time it took to prepare for the trial coincided with an upcoming promotional exam Clint had planned to take. Sgt. O’Kelley advised his supervisors that this case was more important than advancing his career. This attitude has existed throughout his career and has been in evidence in other cases as well.”
For one final award, Chamber President John Owens made a final presentation to the top award recipients, Capt. Michael Holley, Bud Gray, and Sgt. Clint O’Kelley. The three men were presented with a gift of a wristwatch crafted by the Swiss watchmaker TAGHeuer.
“I have one that’s over 25 years old that’s been to the bottom of five oceans with me. Mine was rated for depths up to 300 feet, but these you are getting today are good to 1000 feet,” Owens told the men as he handed the watches to their respective chiefs to present. “If you’re down at the bottom of the ocean, at 1000 feet and you want to know what time it is, you’ll always know. And they’re in North Little Rock blue, too.”
Following the presentation, Owens asked all the award recipients to stand and be recognized once more, and then asked all police, fire, and emergency personnel present to also stand and be recognized.
“It really is overwhelming to hear the stories of all the award recipients and all they’ve done,” Owens concluded. “It really moves my heart and I know it does yours too.”