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Merrillville officer named year’s top cop

Honorees

At the 12th annual District One Law Enforcement Council and Northwest Indiana Public Information Officers Association Awards Ceremony

Officer Recognition Awards

Schererville Police Detective William Bednar

Portage Police Master Patrolman Greg Coleman

Indiana University Police Officer Mike DeVries

Indiana University Police Officer Ricardo Garcia

Indiana University Police Lt. Wayne James

Dyer Police Officer Shane Hendron

Dyer Police Corporal Richard Nester

Dyer Police Officer Darrell Shafer

Crown Point Police Detective Sgt. Norm Isaacs

Lowell Police Officer Joseph Knight

Lake County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team, chair George Delipoulous

Griffith Police Officer Kevin Strbjak

Hammond Police Officer Anthony Valera

Hobart Police Officer Kenneth L. Williams

Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

Indiana State Police Detective Chris Campione

Indiana State Police Sgt. Rick Strong

Homewood, Ill., Police Sgt. Dave Tobin

NWI PIO Program of the Year

Indiana State Police Swift Project – Indiana Police Sgt. Wanda Clay

Portage Police Reserve Program

Lifetime Achievement

Retired East Chicago Police Chief Gus Flores, 44 years

Griffith Police Detective Sgt. Ronald Kottka, 38 years

Portage Police Assistant Chief William Mesich, 26 years

Updated: April 17, 2013 6:10AM



HOBART — Acts of law enforcement heroism from around the region, such as dragging people from a burning building to breathing life back into a 14-day-old infant, were recognized Friday by the law enforcement community during a ceremony selecting an officer of the year.

Acts above and beyond the call of duty were highlighted in the 12th annual awards ceremony hosted by the District One Law Enforcement Council and Northwest Indiana Public Information Officers Association.

“It is only right to honor those law enforcement officers who went above and beyond the call of duty to do something extra,” Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said. Individuals can be quick to criticize when an officer crosses the line to do something that is not right, he said.

“The overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers … go out each and every day and do what expected and what has to be done.”

Merrillville Police Officer Matthew Vasel received the top honor when he was named Officer of the Year for his efforts in ending an armed confrontation with a suicidal individual in a lethal force situation. The suspect sustained a non-life-threatening injury.

Vasel, with four years on the force, also is Merrillville’s highest producer for patrol activity in 2012 with 1,046 traffic citations, 33 operating while intoxicated arrests, 177 adult arrests and 230 case reports. He also responded to 1,111 calls for service.

“I’m just humbled, humbled they appreciate what we do,” Vasel said. His wife, Lauren, attended the ceremony as well.

“It just makes me that much more proud,” she said.

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter said he wanted to thank and recognize not only those receiving individual honors but all members of law enforcement. Without their efforts, he said, his office would be unable to secure convictions.

“We from the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office appreciate all the hard work you do,” Carter said.

Sometimes that work involves saving lives. This year five officers were recognized for their life-saving efforts including Lake County Sheriff’s Officer Amber Thomas, who on Sept. 27 pulled to safety two men who were trapped in a burning building, and East Chicago Police Officer Timothy Leimbach, who on Jan. 5, 2012, took action when he was first to arrive at a call about a 14-day-old infant and successfully revived the baby with CPR.

Additional officers honored for their life-saving efforts included Indiana State Police Cpl. Dan Becker, Portage Police Master Patrolman Chris Burch and Schererville Police Cpl. Marcus Handley.



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