The Calibre Report: 6 New Honorees Join LEO Hall of FameBy Calibre Press |
Amid a mix of emotion, celebration, humility, and pride, six new inductees were recently ushered into the National Law Enforcement Officer Hall of Fame in lasting honor of their dedication to excellence in policing.
A multi-state audience of more than 200 family, friends, colleagues, and law enforcement supporters witnessed the luncheon ceremony in a suburb of Toledo, OH, where the Hall of Fame was founded in 2017. The program was produced by the Hall’s initial civilian creators, Megan Stockburger, and Adam Davenport, in partnership with Calibre Press, the nation’s leading independent police training organization.
National nominations are now officially open for next year’s honorees. (See below for details.)
At this year’s ceremony, the pervasive mood of respect and gratitude for the service and sacrifice of “the thin blue line” was established at the outset by Scott Hughes, chief of the Hamilton Twp. (OH) Police Dept. and a Calibre Press instructor.
In introducing the day’s keynote speaker, Hughes declared that “in the midst of negative clamor” by media and activist voices, “it is important that the truth about officers be spotlighted.”
Keynoter. What followed was a gripping account of heroic public action and hidden personal turmoil by a 25-year police veteran of Cleveland PD. Recently retired Ofcr. Anthony Espada played a key role near the end of his career in liberating three young women who had been kidnapped and held prisoner for some 10 years in a house of horrors on Espada’s beat.
Ironically, this internationally acclaimed rescue privately proved to be the triggering event that spiraled Espada into a pit of despair that nearly claimed his life—until he came to terms with the core value of his policing experiences.
(Espada appears periodically as a guest speaker at Calibre’s Street Survival Seminar.
We’ll tell his compelling story in a forthcoming separate report.)
2019 Honorees. After a standing ovation for Espada and his wife Vivian, who played a crucial role in his personal rescue, the roll call of 2019 inductees began. Those named and their respective award categories are:
Det. Sgt. Robert (Rex) Baumgartner, Toledo PD (ret.), Career Achievement Award. At 80 years old, Baumgartner has over 55 years in law enforcement. Through that time, he has exhibited an “exceptional passion” for learning everything he could from victims and criminals alike to hone his skills for solving crimes from burglaries to rapes and for conducting many successful sting operations. His investigations have resulted in more than 11 million dollars in recovered property and over 1,500 arrests and prosecutions. In “retirement,” he continues to serve as an investigator of crimes against the elderly for a county prosecutor’s office. When will he quit? he’s asked. “When I can’t find any more criminals dumb enough for me to catch.”
Ofcr. Michael Hitchcock, Ballwin (MO) PD, School Resource Officer of the Year Award. In his three years as SRO at a suburban St. Louis middle school, this 32-year police veteran became the first non-teacher to win an Outstanding Service to Education Award in his school district for his unique initiatives. A well-spring of ideas for engaging often alienated kids, his approaches have included “Lunch with a Cop” and “Ride to School with a Cop” programs, reading improvement tutoring involving fellow officers, officer-student basketball competition, a lodging-voucher service for homeless families, an emergency food pantry, a student traffic-assist program to help with directing bus parking, and many more projects. All are designed to create opportunities “to talk to kids who may be considered outcasts and who could use some one-on-one friendship.”
Sgt. Joe Okos, Toledo PD, Distinguished Service Award. Joe Okos’s career commitment to public service has been broad-band, ranging from Marine Corps combat duty to volunteer firefighting/EMS and into policing, where he’s built an impressive record across 13 years with his department’s Honor Guard, Crisis Intervention Team, FTO program, and SWAT unit. Children have been his special focus. He has created a cop-kid Christmas shopping program involving hundreds of at-risk youth, founded a firearms safety program for 4- to 10-year-olds, launched bowling and softball events for officers and Special Olympics athletes—to name just a few of the activities that have garnered him multiple recognitions from his grateful community.
Ofcr. Kevin Davis, Akron (OH) PD, Trainer of the Year Award. In presenting this award, Hall of Fame member Chuck Humes said of Davis, “He’s not only one of the best trainers in the world, he’s one of the best students in the world.” He imparts what he’s continually learning from study and experience through a variety of platforms for the betterment of law enforcement. He has taught instructor-level classes at ILEETA conferences for more than a decade, as well as conducting on-site training throughout the US and Canada. His book on investigating use-of-force incidents is required reading at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. His byline appears frequently in SWAT and tactical publications and on major police training websites. His testimony as an expert witness has helped exonerate numerous officers unjustly accused of improper use of force. Twenty-five years on; still learning, and far from finished.
Ofcr. Wendy Newsome, Maumee (OH) PD, Community Impact Award. Determined, like many officers, “to change my city in a positive way,” Newsome’s current focus after more than 24 years in uniform is on crime prevention and community policing. Beyond teaching DARE and anti-bullying skills to elementary students and working to polish neighborhood residents’ observation acumen and crime sensitivity, she has created an elderly-assistance program her nominator, Hall of Fame member Jodi Johnson, calls “a brilliant idea.” On a regular basis, uniformed officers make house calls to senior citizens who are “home-bound or have little outside assistance.” The officers assess each subject’s general condition, help with minor household chores, and relay “relevant information about scams and cons” they may be unaware of—all, in Johnson’s words, “incredibly beneficial.”
Capt. John (“The Hammer”) Drum, Lee County (FL) SO (ret.), Scherer-Remsberg Lifetime Achievement Award. (This award commemorates retired Toledo Ofcr. Joel Scherer, who inspired his daughter, Megan Stockburger, to co-found the Hall of Fame, and Chuck Remsberg, co-founder of Calibre Press and the Street Survival Seminar.)
Capt. Drum was honored posthumously, having died unexpectedly last fall just four years into his retirement. According to an online remembrance, his name was “synonymous with putting bad guys behind bars.” During his 25-year career, he amassed 7,423 arrests, a remarkable average of 5.71 collars every week for a quarter-century. Starting on patrol in “the toughest areas of the county,” his “unique skill set” in tracking down criminals led to his appointment to the US Marshals Fugitive Warrants Task Force, where he spent the majority of his career. More than 500 people attended his funeral. “If honor consists of having a reputation judged worthy of respect and admiration by equal peers, John cleared that bar with ease,” a fellow officer wrote at that time. Another noted, “One of the nicest guys I ever met, one of the first guys I would go through a door with, one of a kind.”
After the ceremony, the crowd lingered in the banquet hall for photographs, congratulations, and, in some cases, tearful recollections. As alumnus, Chuck Humes later noted on social media, “It was absolutely a top-notch day all the way…an outstanding success.”
2020 Vision. With these inductees, the Hall of Fame roster now totals 19 LEOs. For nominees for next year’s awards, the anonymous judges’ panel, to be chaired going forward by Calibre Press’s Chuck Remsberg, will be looking for “officers who have gone out of their way to make a difference in their job and in their community,” Stockburger says.
She’s hopeful that nominations will be made from every state, with a true cross-section of agencies, ranks, and assignments represented.
“Nominees can be active, retired, or deceased peace officers,” she says. Depending on the volume and variety of submissions, an unspecified number of finalists and award categories will be designated.
Nominate for 2020 now!
To see a list of suggested categories and to complete a nomination form, go to the National Law Enforcement Officer Hall of Fame website: www.nationalhalloffame.com/nominate. For answers to questions or for assistance, contact Megan Stockburger at [email protected] or Adam Davenport at [email protected]. You can also stay up-to-date on their facebook page.
“The Hall of Fame looks forward to honoring LEOs each and every year,” Stockburger says. “Although most say they don’t do the job for the recognition, we feel their stories need to be heard.”
Adds Calibre Press president Lisa Gitchell: “The National Law Enforcement Officer Hall of Fame represents the very core of our mission—to support officers in every possible way, not just through training but through standing in front of the world and saying, ‘This is what law enforcement really looks like. This is what policing is all about. This is why we should all be eternally grateful for the work the brave men and women behind the badge do every day, everywhere.’ ”
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