Columbia City Police Department recognizes officer achievements
(Talk of the Town photos by Jennifer Zartman Romano)
Above, in front from left, is Master Patrolman Jeff Chapman, Master Patrolman Gary Parrett and Chief Tim Longenbaugh. Row two, from left, includes Probationary Officer Jonathan Stoffel, Master Patrolman Scott Leatherman, Sergeant Trey Insley and Master Patrolman Thor Hodges. Captain Tony Hively and Master Patrolman Bill Simpson were not available.
By Jennifer Zartman Romano
Seated shoulder to shoulder inside the new Columbia City Police Department conference room in City Hall Thursday afternoon, many of Columbia City's police officers gathered for recognition and to celebrate others' accomplishments.
In all, seven officers were issued awards in the annual ceremony. The awards were issued by Chief Tim Longenbaugh, Captain Tony Hively and Sergeant Trey Insley.
Longenbaugh addressed the honorees, saying "We want to thank you for your dedication to the police department and to this community."
"It is because of officers like yourselves, going above and beyond in your duties, that we can be proud of our safe community," Longenbaugh added, saying, "thanks for your dedication and service to the City of Columbia City."
Receiving top recognition Thursday was the department's newest officer -- probationary officer Jonathan Stoffel, who joined the force in 2013. Stoffel received a Patrolman's medal and letter of commendation for outstanding police performance, dedication to the community, selfless service and intiative. Within months of joining the force, Stoffel spearheaded an effort to create the "Patrolling for Presents" project. Through the project, Stoffel secured a grant and considerable financial gifts amounting to more than $2500 to help officers provide Christmas gifts to area children. Then, Stoffel met personally with needy families and help ensure that each child received a $100 gift card to choose gifts and needed items for their families. In all, 20 children were served.
"His unrelenting loyalty, initiative and determination brought him wide acclaim, inspiring his peers and members of the community," Longenbaugh said.
Officer Scott Leatherman received a letter of commendation for his devotion to duty, perseverance and high level of activity in 2013. Leatherman also received a letter of commendation for his public relations activities in 2013.
Officer Gary Parrett received a letter of commendation for his quick response to a burglary on Walnut Street, resulting in a fast apprehension of suspects, confession and arrest. He was also able to quickly recover and return stolen items to the owner. He also received a letter of commendation for his role in public relations functions.
In the latter part of 2013, the department put forth a series of monthly patrol focuses and due to his exemplary efforts in meeting those goals, officer Thor Hodges recieved a letter of commendation. Hodges also received a letter of commendation for public relations activities in 2013.
Officer Jeff Chapman received a letter of commendation for performing above and beyond his assigned tasks and for public relations duties in 2013.
Although not in attendance for the awards ceremony, officer Bill Simpson was recognized with a letter of commendation for numerous public relations activities he conducted in 2013.
Longenbaugh said the impetus for many of the letters of commendation this year surround his department's goal of enhanced public relations -- and citing officers who are making an effort in this area.
"A focus of the department recently has been public relations," he said. Through visits with school groups, civic organizations and officers taking time to reach out to the community in uniform, but at a human-to-human level, the department is seeking opportunities to relate with citizens and help them.
Frequently, when children are brought to tour the police station, Longenbaugh says they comment on having a fear of officers. "Children say they're scared and we definitely don't want that," he said, adding that it is a goal of his to have officers viewed as helpers. He feels a lot of inroads have been made recently and that's something he wants to continue to build upon.
"Sometimes our job can be thankless...we're dealing with people on their worst day," he said. "But we're trying to improve public relations not just with children, but with business owners too. We want to see what kind of problems they're facing to see how we can help."