Men, women in public safety honored at 39th annual awards luncheon
Prince George’s County Police Department Officer Dale T. Sollars named 2015 Police Officer of the Year
Honoring the outstanding sacrifices as well as recognizing the bravery, dedication and service of men and women who put their life on the line to protect all citizens and businesses in the county, Prince George’s County held its 39th Annual Public Safety Valor Awards Luncheon on April 27 at Martin’s Crosswinds in Greenbelt.
More than 40 public safety department and agency officials received silver, bronze, or gold medals to commensurate their acts of heroism and bravery. The award presentations were lead by County Executive Rushern L. Baker (D), Office of Public Safety Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Mark A. Magaw, Chief of Police Henry P. Stawinski, Office of Homeland Security Director Gevonia R. Whittington, Department of Corrections Director Mary Lou McDonough, Sheriff Melvin C. High and Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor.
“It’s so important. It’s about recognizing people who do good work everyday, but some go beyond and they set a good example for all of us and help us to safeguard and protect our community in the very best way possible,” High said.
Bashoor said recognizing the men and women for the good work they do everyday is one thing, but having the opportunity to honor their valor and ingenuity is something special, he said.
“The people doing those things that aren’t just the everyday stuff, that’s what we recognized today,” said Bashoor. “We’re really excited and honored to be able to do this once a year in a mass ceremony.”
This year’s valor awards were a first for Stawinski as sitting police chief. He said it’s more about understanding the nature of sacrifice as those men and women are unselfish in their pursuit to protect and serve others, but they aren’t always given the credit they deserve.
“They’re not provided the sort of credit that they should have. But the reality is that all the people in this room in public safety are more concerned about the safety of others than themselves and you see them putting themselves in real physical danger, moral danger, around fires, armed people, in traffic accidents,” he said. “Nobody who does this work looks for recognition and I think because of that, it means that much more when they receive it.”
Baker said the event holds even greater significance compared to past years because the county is still mourning two of its fallen heroes, PGPD Officer Jacai Colson and firefighter John Ulmschneider, who were both killed by gunfire in the line of duty. This is the first year, since Baker has been county executive, that a valor awards luncheon was held under such circumstances, he said.
“It gives us a chance to recognize these men and women who, everyday, do extraordinary things as part of their job. None of us out here, outside of them, have a job and says, ‘I’m going to be in danger every single day that I put a uniform on or step into my job,’ or is going to be in an extremely stressful situa- tion,” Baker said. “So it’s a chance for us to say to them ‘thank you, we honor you, we honor you while you’re alive and we want your colleagues to see what a phenomenal job you’re doing.’ In some of the instances, these men and women put their lives on the line and the people they were there to protect and try to save unfortunately died. But we still honor them because they risked everything to give those individuals, us as a society, the best chance to live.”
When it comes to doing a phenomenal job, Officer Dale T. Sollars of the Prince George’s County Police Department was named the county’s 2015 Police Officer of the Year. Sollars received the gold medal of valor for his heroic actions from an incident stemming back be- fore Jan. 9 of last year.
On the evening of Jan. 9, 2015, Sollars walked on top of a frozen pond in Oxon Hill to try to rescue a 7-yearold boy who had fallen through the ice. As Sollars was walking, the ice gave way and he fell in. He managed to quickly swim over to the child and brought him to shore, where officers began CPR. Once out of the water, Sollars used his prior EMT training to take over chest compressions until paramedics arrived. The boy was rushed to a hospital where he was later pronounced dead, according to the PGPD blog.
Sollars, who had placed himself in a near fatal danger all in an effort to rescue the young boy, was awarded the gold medal of valor. Humble in his remarks, Sollars said it’s quite an honor to be recognized for just doing his job.
“Whether it’s my kid or anybody else’s kid, somebody’s gotta do something. That’s they way I look at it,” he said.
Although he is no longer doing patrol now that he is doing work in investigations, Sollars said he will continue to do his job — to protect and serve.
“To be with such a large department and be notified that you’re the [police officer] of the year, that’s great,” Sollars said. “I was a fireman for 12 years before this. … It was a nice job, I liked it. But I’m glad I did this because I’m able to take all those skills I learned from that and then group it in with this job. It’s helped me with a lot of situations.”
Prince George’s County Police Officer Dale T. Sollars, center, is presented with a plaque from County Executive Rushern L. Baker and Chief of Police Henry Stawinski after Sollars received top honors as the 2015 Police Officer of the Year during the 39th Annual Public Safety Awards Luncheon on April 27 at Martin’s Crosswinds in Greenbelt. Sollars also received the gold medal of valor for his heroic efforts last year in rescuing a 7-year-old boy who fell in a frozen pond near the intersection of Southview Drive and Calais Court in Oxon Hill. The boy, however, did not survive.