Winter Haven Police Annual Awards Banquet 2017

On Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, the men and women of the Winter Haven Police Department gathered at the Historic Ritz Theatre to celebrate accomplishments and honor award recipients honored for 2016.

City Manager T. Michael Stavres emceed the event as awards were handed out for various categories. Lifesaving Medals were also pinned as members (and one volunteer) jumped into action to assist a citizen.
This event would not have been possible without the dedicated support of our sponsors.

Winter Haven Police 2017 Annual Awards Banquet Award Recipients

Life Saving Award

 Officer Luis Garcia

On March 11, 2016, you responded to a call at the Florida Garden Motel to discover the female victim unresponsive, not breathing, blue in the face and her eyes fixed in an open position. You quickly retrieved your AED and utilized the device, which ultimately brought the victim back to life with detectible vital signs. EMS personnel arrived and took over. It was later determined the victim had suffered from a possible overdose to an opiate. Your swift actions saved this woman’s life.

Life Saving Award


 Sergeant David Keigan & Volunteer Raymond Brown

On August 2, 2016, Volunteer Brown was patrolling along First St. South at Ave. O when he saw a disabled vehicle in the middle of First St. He called the blocked roadway issue over the radio and immediately turned his vehicle around to assist the driver. As he approached the vehicle, he saw smoke coming from underneath the hood. The elderly female driver was obviously in a panic and was unable to unlock the doors or roll down the windows. Brown instructed the driver to climb to the back of the vehicle away from the smoke coming from underneath the dash. Sgt. Keigan arrived and along with another motorist, the back window was smashed out in order to pull the victim out of the vehicle. Winter Haven Fire arrived and extinguished the flames and determined the fire had caused all electrical systems to malfunction, prohibiting the windows and locks from working. Brown’s attention to his surroundings and quick response along with Sgt. Keigan’s efforts in smashing the window to get the female out of the vehicle no doubt prevented serious injury or death to this woman.

Life Saving Award


 Inspector Steve Rusich

On November 28, 2016, a call came in about a suicidal female on the 13th floor of high rise apartments on Ave. A SW. As you arrived you made contact with other officers and fire personnel who were on scene. You were informed the female was not responding to any communication from those on scene and attempts were being made to repel off the roof to reach the woman. You quickly went to the floor and an adjacent window where the woman was on the ledge and began speaking to the distraught woman through the window. Your calm demeanor immediately allowed for you to establish a rapport with her and you learned she was having a difficult time after recently losing both her mother and father. During this time, the window was not staying open on its own, therefore you were holding it open with your head while staying calm and speaking with her. Ultimately, you reached your hand towards her and she, in turn, reached out to you allowing you to pull her in through the window. Your compassion didn’t stop there. Instead of immediately having her whisked away, you stayed with her for more than an hour speaking with her and simply validating her feelings. She then eagerly accepted assistance to help her cope with the distraught feelings she was having and she was transported to Winter Haven Hospital for treatment. Due to your patience, sympathy and empathy towards this woman that day, you helped turn her focus from jumping to her death to bringing her back to a reality that gave her hope and a will to live.
directly at you and other officers. You and the other members immediately returned fire, striking the suspect several times. Life-saving measures were given, but the attempts failed and he was pronounced deceased at the hospital.
You and your fellow Task Force members were attempting to apprehend a subject who was known as a violent felon and, when faced with the life or death situation, your actions were absolutely necessary to prevent your own injury or death as well as to protect the community from this violent criminal.

Citizen of Valor


Garrett Kemp

On October 3, 2016, you were tending to your route as a FedEx driver in the area of Ave. C SW when you saw the victim walking backwards in front of your vehicle. You immediately saw a dog, appearing to be a pit bull, running towards the female victim in an aggressive manner. You saw the victim fall to the ground and the dog biting on the victims left leg. You ran to the victim and put yourself in between the victim and the dog, which gave the victim enough of an opportunity to jump into your van for safety. The dog then turned his aggression towards your van in an attempt to get the victim. The victim suffered significant injuries to her leg and ankle and was taken to the hospital for treatment. The owner of the dog appeared and took the dog away stating that someone had been in the yard earlier and that’s why he was chasing people. However, it was your observation the owner did very little to keep the dog from attacking the victim. If it were not for your swift actions and putting yourself in danger of being bit, while allowing the victim the opportunity to get to safety, there certainly would have been more substantial injuries to the victim.
(It should be noted that this was not Mr. Kemp’s usual route as he does not normally deliver in Winter Haven. In fact, he had only been in Winter Haven a couple of other times before this incident.)

Explorer of the Year:


Johnny Disla

 This Explorer has been an active member of the Explorer Post for several years and each year shows more and more leadership skills. This Explorer has been a member of the post for almost 5 years, and has been nothing short of exceptional. This Explorer has stepped up and taken charge when the need arose. He has demonstrated amazing leadership skills and has provided an example of what all police explorers should be. This explorer has completed over 500 hours of community service during his and continues to serve the community – even while holding down a job and attending college. This explorer has developed strategies and goals for the post and is constantly looking for ways to develop the program and the members. This explorer has gone above and beyond what is expected of any explorer. This explorer lives, breathes and sleeps thinking about law enforcement, and his favorite television show is, of course, Cops!
Not only is this explorer a leader in the post, but he also attends Polk State College and is devoted to his family and his church.

Support Services Bureau Member of the Year

Kari Anderson

 This member is extremely dedicated to the job and mission of the Police Department. This member jumps in to help at a moment’s notice without hesitation. There is always an eagerness to learn and goes over and above to make sure the job is done!
Last year, this member was dealt a hand that sidelined her for a while. Typically, this type of situation would mean someone would be out for an extended period of time. However, she took great care to schedule appointments to ensure her time missed was limited and her duties would not burden other members of the agency. Her outlook during the time she was facing this situation was a true inspiration to all she encountered. And she continues to be a pillar of encouragement and motivation.

Uniform Services Bureau Member of the Year:


Officer Mike Lango

 This officer is the picture of professionalism and when he is in contact with the citizens, he has the utmost courteous demeanor. He is quick to assist any officer and frequently is a source of guidance to other officers who seek out advice. He was temporarily assigned to patrol from motors to supplement the quads, but still responded to responsibilities to investigate serious traffic crashes and traffic homicides. Over the course of those months, he was shuffled between day and night shifts and never complained. He saw the need of the organization and understands the needs of the agency come first. He is a great source of knowledge for most electronic issues, including report writing, Tiburon, ARS and LEAPS programs. He has one of the most positive attitudes in the agency and has the appreciation of many members of supervision as well as his fellow officers.

Investigative Services Bureau Member of the Year:


Beth Dorney
 This member came to the agency in 2015 and immediately showed skill, knowledge and hard work jumping into a position that had a few challenges. This member has an exceptional work ethic, helping detectives and officers to solve crimes. Her dedication to not only the job, but the agency is evident by the efficiency and effectiveness of her work. All this while, up to just recently, being the only person in a two-person area.

Volunteer of the Year:


Michele Clark
 This volunteer has been an extremely valuable member of the Department for almost three years. The volunteer has shown versatility and poise all while bringing extreme comic relief to everyone around. She arrives with a smile and is ready to serve in any way she can. Frankly, there hasn’t been one duty that this volunteer has ever been rattled with. She takes on each and every task without question and typically has someone laughing before she’s done. Her commitment to customer service is stellar!

Civilian of the Year:


Beth Dorney

 This member has shown dedication and commitment to the Department through positive interactions with members as well as citizens. The strong attention to detail and tenacity to complete assignments throughout the year is evident through the outcome of many cases at the agency. This member is never rattled and impresses not only the members of the agency, but the citizens she encounters. Her positive attitude, exemplary work and dedication to the Department is refreshing.

Officer of the Year:


Officer Luis Garcia
 This member is a dedicated member who shows commitment to customer service, crime suppression and prevention. This officer is one of the most productive in the bureau being proactive and becoming an informal leader to the members of his squad. All this is done while he provides guidance and leadership to less experienced members and constantly backing up other officers. His exceptional work ethic is an inspiration to other members and he constantly leads by example. (And he outshined everyone dancing in the Running Man Challenge video.)