Royal Oak Police Department distributes annual awards

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published May 28, 2019

 Detective Brett Nelson receives the Officer of the Year award at Royal Oak City Hall May 20.

Detective Brett Nelson receives the Officer of the Year award at Royal Oak City Hall May 20.

Photo by Sarah Wojcik

 Officer Kristen Karr receives a bravery award. Karr risked her safety to help a young woman who was attempting to jump from an overpass onto a freeway on Sept. 18, 2018.

Officer Kristen Karr receives a bravery award. Karr risked her safety to help a young woman who was attempting to jump from an overpass onto a freeway on Sept. 18, 2018.

Photo by Sarah Wojcik

 Sgt. Jacob Theisen receives a lifesaving award. He was able to convince a despondent man who was planning to shoot himself to hand over the firearm, and then Theisen connected the man with mental health assistance.

Sgt. Jacob Theisen receives a lifesaving award. He was able to convince a despondent man who was planning to shoot himself to hand over the firearm, and then Theisen connected the man with mental health assistance.

Photo by Sarah Wojcik

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ROYAL OAK — On May 20, Royal Oak Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue distributed the annual departmental awards before the regularly scheduled City Commission meeting.

The awards included certificates of commendation, lifesaving awards, a distinguished service award, a bravery award, an Officer of the Year award and a Civilian of the Year award.

Sgt. David Budzynowski, Sgt. Richard Millard, Detective Matthew Murray, and officers Gerald Karr, Michael Stajich and Joseph Yerke received a certificate of commendation for their actions on Jan. 23, 2018.

They responded to a report of an attempted home invasion, set up a perimeter and, while searching the area, located a suspect matching the description provided by the caller. The suspect attempted to evade police, but officers used a K-9 to track him, and they arrested him a short time later.

“Through the diligent efforts of all involved, a felony warrant for attempted home invasion, first degree, was issued by the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office,” O’Donohue said. “The suspect has a criminal history that included previous home invasions dating back to 1977.”

Detective Brett Nelson and officers Matthew Bobek, Brian Buckley, Stajich and Andrew Stienke received a certificate of commendation for their response on Jan. 26, 2018.

The driver of a vehicle that Bobek and Buckley stopped had fled on foot, and Buckley ran after him and apprehended him a few blocks away. Stienke, who arrived to assist, located documents in the vehicle indicative of fraudulent activity. His K-9, Jesse, also located a wallet discarded by the driver that pointed to fraudulent activity.

Nelson was assigned to investigate, and he discovered that the driver was involved in a high-level identify theft, insurance fraud and credit card fraud scheme. Search warrants revealed hundreds of ID theft victims and hundreds of thousands of dollars of insurance fraud, according to police. The investigation is ongoing, and Nelson is seeking federal charges.

Millard; Sgt. Christopher Platt; Murray; Detective Donald van Ochten; officers Kenneth Kosmack, David Ratliff and Greg Hadfield, of the Pleasant Ridge Police Department; and police service aides Kelly Davidson and Amber McNeil received a certificate of commendation for their actions on Feb. 27, 2018.

The midnight shift responded to a report of an armed home invasion of an elderly couple. Officers broadcast the report, and the suspects were stopped in Pleasant Ridge and were taken into custody. Officers located items from the home invasion in the vehicle.

Detectives discovered that the robbery was orchestrated by the victims’ granddaughter, and they obtained admissions from all three suspects, police said. As a result, the Prosecutor’s Office issued a six-count felony warrant against all three suspects for armed robbery, first-degree home invasion and felony firearm.

Officer John Love received a lifesaving award for his actions on Nov. 10, 2018.

Love responded to a 911 call about a man who had been stumbling in the street and collapsed. Love observed the man have a seizure and, not finding a pulse, called the Fire Department and began lifesaving efforts. He continued CPR until the arrival of firefighters, who confirmed that Love had reestablished the pulse and saved the man’s life.

Officer Timothy Storye received a lifesaving award for his response on Oct. 31, 2018.

Storye responded to a 911 call about a woman who was not breathing. He found her in her home not breathing and, not finding a pulse, began CPR and requested the Fire Department. His efforts reestablished her breathing and pulse, and she was transported to the hospital alive.

Officer Brian Buckley received a lifesaving award for his actions on May 25, 2018.

Buckley responded to the Center Street parking deck after several callers reported a young woman standing on the ledge of the seventh floor. Buckley located the woman and began to speak with her, eventually convincing her to step down off the ledge. The woman was taken for mental health treatment and later expressed her gratitude to Buckley.

“Officer Buckley’s initiative and compassion helped the young woman to feel her situation was less dire and allowed her to realize an alternative to ending her own life,” O’Donohue said.

Sgt. Jacob Theisen received a lifesaving award for his response on March 17, 2018.

Theisen noticed an elderly man sitting alone in a parking lot and approached him to check on his welfare. The man said he was homeless with several medical issues and admitted to feeling hopeless and without purpose for life. After inquiring further, Theisen learned the man had a loaded firearm in his backpack, which he planned to use to kill himself.

Theisen convinced the man to turn over the backpack, secured the firearm, and facilitated mental health assistance for him. Before leaving, he gave the man his business card and told him to call anytime he needed to talk to someone.

Officer Catherine Szdlowski received a distinguished service award for her work as the Royal Oak Police Department’s school liaison officer. She completed her role in August 2018.

During her tenure, she completed several projects and initiatives, including the creation of the training manual for subsequent school liaison officers. She also assisted in nearly every case involving school-aged kids.

“(The position) requires a special skill set that highlights mentoring, teaching and encouraging,” O’Donohue said. “It is critically important to helping young people get back on track.”

Officer Kristen Karr received a bravery award for her actions on Sept. 18, 2018.

Karr responded to a report of a young woman attempting to jump onto the freeway from an overpass. The woman was on the outer side of the fenced barrier when Karr arrived. Karr climbed out onto the overpass, took the woman’s hand and convinced her to come back off the ledge.

“If the young woman did decide to jump or even if she slipped, there is little doubt Officer Karr would have been pulled down with her,” O’Donohue said. “Officer Karr risked her own safety to establish a physical connection with this distraught woman and, in doing so, convinced her to come off the overpass.”

Deputy Chief Bob Reilly received the Ken Evancho Award, named for a Royal Oak Police Department lieutenant who died in an off-duty motorcycle accident in 2002 and given to an employee who displays strong leadership, teamwork and exemplary behavior.

Reilly, who has been with the department since 1994, plans to retire in August.

“Bob has served as DC for the last 3 1/2 years, and I have come to really rely on his knowledge and advice,” O’Donohue said. “Bob has maintained a reputation of being a thoughtful, diligent and extremely dedicated employee. Bob has an attention for detail that few others have.”

Nelson received the Officer of the Year award. A member of the Southeast Michigan Financial Crimes Task Force, he handles most of the financial fraud crimes in Royal Oak.

In his nomination, Sgt. Don Swiatkowski wrote that Nelson handles his substantial caseload with “expertise, motivation and a desire that is unparalleled in investigative circles.”

“Detective Nelson continues to provide service as an elected member of the municipal pension board and serves in a union capacity where his demeanor and work ethic have earned him praise and a cohesive relationship with police administration,” Swiatkowski wrote.

Megan Synk received the Civilian of the Year award. Synk was hired as O’Donohue’s administrative assistant in 2015, and she performs a wide variety of tasks to help the department run smoothly.

“Megan handles all her responsibilities professionally and competently, all the while keeping a cheerful, upbeat disposition with an easygoing personality that makes for a great work environment,” O’Donohue said.

Royal Oak Mayor Michael Fournier said statistics show that police personnel do “an amazing, professional job.”

“The stories that we heard here tonight exemplify the passion and compassionate nature that you have serving the public selflessly, and we’re so grateful,” Fournier said.

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