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

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES jclinkscales@somd­news.com

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.”

STAFF PHOTO BY JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES

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...

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