City salutes officers for outstanding efforts in 2012

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published March 13, 2013

GROSSE POINTE CITY — City leaders used part of their Feb. 25 City Council meeting to honor outstanding work by members of the Public Safety Department last year.

Public Safety Director Stephen Poloni presented awards to several officers who went above and beyond the call of duty during several incidents in 2012.

“It’s an honor to be able to present awards to some of the finest officers in the department,” Poloni said.

Lt. Eddie Tujaka received a department citation for his work on a May 16 hit-and-run accident. Besides administering help to the person injured in the crash, Poloni said Tujaka also investigated the scene, alerted his colleagues via radio and learned from another department that the second vehicle in the crash was parked in a neighboring city. Tujaka met the person believed to have been the driver of the second vehicle at his home and found him “severely intoxicated.” The driver was arrested after Tujaka determined that he had been responsible in the crash, and police were able to secure a third operating while intoxicated conviction — a felony — against him, Poloni said.

“This officer performed outstanding service and prevented this driver from continuing his criminal behavior,” he said.

Officer Christopher Cotzias also received a department citation for getting an alleged repeat drunken driving offender off the road. Last March 3, Poloni said Cotzias was helping his peers in a traffic stop when another vehicle whizzed past them at more than 70 mph, almost hitting police in the process. Cotzias pursued and eventually pulled over the speeder, who Poloni said was “extremely intoxicated” and fought with the officer. He said Cotzias was able to subdue and arrest the man, who police later learned was also an ex-convict.

For their investigation into a March 3, 2012, burglary on Lincoln, Detective Sgt. Alan Gwyn and Detective Christopher Lee were given a unit citation. Poloni said the City’s two detectives “displayed excellence in service” during a series of interviews and search warrants that ultimately led to the arrest and conviction of three suspects, and the recovery of many of the jewelry pieces stolen from the home.

And at a time when the City is faced with what leaders say are major financial challenges — challenges that have leaders considering merging their Public Safety Department with that of Grosse Pointe Park and merging their emergency dispatch with a neighbor — Poloni also recognized officer Joseph Adams with a department commendation for becoming the vehicle maintenance officer.

“This program saved us a huge amount of money, budget-wise,” Poloni said. “Joe has stepped up and done an excellent job keeping all of the vehicles in tip-top shape.”

Adams has “immediately addressed all the problems with the police department vehicles and rectified them,” including getting repairs done in-house that previously would have been sent out for that reason, the director said.

For providing “outstanding service to the community and the department while serving in the position of detective,” Poloni also honored Lee as the Officer of the Year. During 2012, the director said Lee “worked diligently on several cases,” including the jewelry theft, an armed robbery, a felonious assault and another home invasion. Poloni said Lee played an important role on several fire scenes as a member of the arson team, and he served as the City’s fire inspector, as well.

“Detective Lee was also instrumental in organizing and updating the handling of evidence and property, which results in enhanced prosecutions,” Poloni said. “Detective Lee exemplifies the dedication worthy of this Officer of the Year award.”

Lee received a standing ovation from City officials and those in the audience.

Sgt. John Alcorn was also honored for graduating from the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety’s 10-week School of Police Staff and Command program, which took place in Southfield from Sept. 10, 2012, to Jan. 25, 2013. The upper-level college program covered topics such as organizational behavior, management, staffing allocation and human resources for law enforcement in its 22 core blocks of instruction. Poloni said Alcorn was still working while attending classes and completing the required papers, projects and tests associated with the program. He said the City would benefit from Alcorn’s completion of the program, whose graduates include 750 police chiefs and 39 of the 50 directors of state police agencies.

“We are very proud of John,” Poloni said. “He did an excellent job. It was a lot of hard work.”

After accepting his plaque from Poloni, Alcorn joked that the director was putting “a little pressure on me.”

Alcorn is the first officer from the City to graduate from Northwestern University’s School of Police Staff and Command, Poloni said.

“Thank you all,” Mayor Dale Scrace told the award recipients at the end of the ceremony. “Congratulations.”

He was one of several officials who praised the work done by members of the Public Safety Department.

“It was good to see the public safety officers get this recognition,” City Council member Andrew Turnbull said. “They keep the community safe and make it a great place to live.”

City Council member Christopher Boettcher likewise praised the award winners for “the nice job they’ve done.”