Police work is not just about getting the bad guys, but about being the good guys.
Fifteen members of the Niagara Falls Police Department were honored Friday for outstanding achievement this past year.
"We take a lot of pride in all of our officers and want to give them the spotlight. I don't like the term 'above and beyond the call of duty.' All officers are always expected to go beyond the call of duty. These awards give officers the accolades they deserve," Superintendent John R. Chella said earlier last week, before the ceremony.
Officers and partners Dan Bird, an 18-year veteran, and Shawn Bosi, a five-year veteran, both were awarded the Croix de Negotiator Award for their ability to talk down a person under extreme threat.
Bird and Bosi saved the life of a woman who threatened suicide and considered jumping off the Lockport Road Bridge last March.
"When I looked up on the bridge, I could see that she already had her legs over the side," Bird said. "I thought for sure she would jump, and I was too far away. I called out to her, telling her that suicide was a permanent solution to a temporary problem, and then Shawn arrived"
Bosi had previous experience working with the mentally ill as a security guard in Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center's psychiatric ward.
"We tried to establish a rapport and to sympathize," he said.
"Finally," Bird said, "she put her legs back over. I was dying for coffee, so I distracted her and asked her if she wanted coffee, too."
Bosi said the officers tried to get the woman to sit and have coffee with them and promised help from a counselor.
"She had gained trust in us," Bosi said.
Bosi said officers are trained for these types of situations and learn how to stay calm and not come in like a bulldog during a sensitive situation.
"Most people think all police officers do is kick in doors, but we do care about people," he said.
Bird has been recognized two other times for providing similar help, saving a woman on the Whirlpool Bridge in 1992 and a man on the Rainbow Bridge in 1995. He said that in both other cases officers had to distract the people and tackle them to stop them from jumping.
Also receiving the Croix de Negotiator Award was Lt. David Augustyniak, who joined the department in 1986. He was able to establish a rapport with a barricaded man who was threatening to kill himself.
Other awards include the Gallantry Star, given for the arrest of a person who is major threat to the community. Detective Thomas Fournier, an 18-year veteran, was able to locate a subject in Niagara Falls wanted in the Lockport Apothecary robbery. Fournier pulled over a vehicle and took a suspect into custody. He also recovered a 9 mm Luger in the vehicle.
Officer Michael Bird, a five-year veteran and no relation to Dan Bird, and Officer Kenneth Redmond, a two-year veteran, were also awarded the Gallantry Star. They disarmed a subject who was advancing on them while brandishing a sword last August.
The Honorable Service Award was awarded to Officer Kathy Stack, who has been with the department since 1998. She was honored for doing a thorough investigation and follow-up of a menacing complaint that led to the arrest of three people and the removal of two loaded handguns from the streets.
The Life Saving Medal was awarded to Capt. Frank Tedesco, a 21-year veteran, and Officer Robert DeMarco, a 15-year veteran, for giving CPR to the victim of a car accident last February. The officers revived the victim before an ambulance arrived.
The Superintendent's Award was given to Officer Nicholas Ligammari, hired in 1995. He was instrumental in obtaining Weed and Seed and Operation Impact grants, which have helped increase police presence in the city.
The Jimmy Thompson Memorial Award is given to an officer with less than five years of service who demonstrates diligence and integrity to duty, a willingness to learn and a desire to advance his career. The officer also has a rapport with fellow officers and supervisors and displays a professional attitude at all times. This year's honoree was Officer Michael Corcoran, who has been a member of the department since 2003 and is currently assigned to the A Division.
The Distinguished Senior Officer Award was presented to Officer David Bower, a 14-year-veteran, for exhibiting a professional attitude, displaying excellent investigative techniques and case preparation, consistently submitting concise reports, fostering rapport and interacting well with other divisions. Bower is currently assigned to the A Division.
The Leo Maj Memorial Award is based on a peer vote and is presented to a uniformed officer who exhibits commitment to overall excellence to duty, his family and co-workers. This year's recipient was Officer Michael Scozzafava, who has been with the department since 1991 and is currently on the midnight shift patrol.
The Distinguished Volunteer Award was given to Officer Ronald Cirrito, a 15-year veteran, for volunteering his time and energy to assist the community. He is a longtime volunteer with the Police Athletic League and Cataract Football.
The Niagara Falls Block Club Law Enforcement Partner Award was selected by the block club and awarded to Detective Daniel Jones, who has been with the department since 1989. He is assigned to the Juvenile Bureau and has been a Drug Abuse Resistance Education instructor and worked in Community Services.