UNION, NJ - Union police officers were honored with awards and commendations for acts of bravery and distinguished service during the 2019 National Police Week ceremony at Town Hall on Thursday.

"Officers, it is men and women like yourselves who bring honor to our profession," said Captain Bob Perez.  

"Today, we are not only here to honor your valor, your service and your dedication, but your willingness to go above and beyond to ensure the safety of our community," said Union Mayor Michele Delisfort.

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Award recipients are:

LIFE SAVING AWARD

  • Police Officer Stephen Viaud

On February 26 2019, Officer Stephen Viaud and Officer Gaetano D’Alessandro responded to a medical aid on Chilton Place. Upon arrival, they located a patient who was bleeding profusely from an unknown location on his body. Due to Officer Viaud’s training and certification as a paramedic, he was able to quickly locate the source of the bleeding from the patient’s artery. Officer Viaud‘s quick actions in controlling the bleeding and assisting with a tourniquet application, directly led to the survival of the victim.

LIFESAVING AWARD

  • Officer David Popick

On January 27, 2017, Officer David Popick overheard a radio transmission of a medical aid for CPR.  Officer Popick responded to the residence along with the Union Fire Department.  Officer Popick established the victim was in cardiac arrest and utilized the AED along with conducting CPR until the Union Fire Department and Paramedics arrived. Officer Popick’s quick actions ultimately contributed to the survival of the victim.

COMMAND CITATION

  • Police Office Radcliffe Sangster

On January 30, 2018, officers were dispatched to a report of a male running down Stuyvesant Avenue with a machete. Dispatch advised responding units that two additional males were running after the armed suspect, attempting to disarm him of the machete. The suspect began swinging the machete at the two males who were trying to disarm him. Officer Sangster arrived in the area and began to search for this suspect. Officer Sangster located him near the Public Library, 1980 Morris Ave.  The armed suspect initiated a foot pursuit running into the basement of the Library and hiding behind the building’s furnace.  Officer Sangster contained him to the area of the furnace until back up units arrived. PO Sangster placed the male under arrest and recovered the large survivor type knife in the suspect’s possession. The suspect was subsequently charged with aggravated assault. 

COMMAND CITATION

  • Police Officer Adedeji Akere

While reviewing recent alerts on the departmental information sharing system, Officer Akere saw an alert issued by the Elizabeth Police Department on September 25 2018 seeking help in identifying a bank robber.  He thought the suspect in the bank robbery looked familiar.  Officer Akere had attended a training class on gangs and social media a year prior.  Officer Akere conducted an internet search and was able to identify the suspect based upon the photo in the alert and key phrases the suspect said during the robbery and the videos he located on YouTube.

Officer Akere shared this information with his supervisors and continued to watch some of the suspects freshly posted YouTube videos.  Officer Akere was able to provide critical components he found on his own by following the suspect’s online postings which ultimately led to the suspect being arrested and charged for bank robbery.  The suspect actually posted his goodbye video on YouTube that depicted his bus ride to surrender in Elizabeth.  The Elizabeth Police Department Detectives had no other leads and it is likely the suspect would have continued his life as a bank robber if not for the actions of Officer Akere.

COMMENDATION MEDAL

  • Detective Robert Kiselow
  • Detective John Oliveira
  • Police Officer Christopher Lensi
  • Police Officer Carthaniel Crum*
  • Sergeant Daniel Mitchell**

*Police Officer Carthaniel Crum is in the National Guard and is stationed in the Middle East for one year.  Representing Officer Crum at the Police Week ceremony were his parents.

**Sergeant Daniel Mitchell was unable to attend the Police Week ceremony.

On January 21, 2018 Officers Lensi and Crum were driving in the Shop Rite parking lot, on Rt. 22 at about 9:50 p.m.  The officers detected the aroma of raw marijuana wafting through the air in the parking lot.  The officers began to look for the source of the marijuana and eventually got out on foot and walked around the lot before they focused on a parked car.  Officers approached the vehicle on foot and looked at the driver and into the car, and saw pounds of marijuana in the car in a bag.  The surprised driver did not want to be arrested, put the car in drive and drove away onto Rt. 22.  

Officers ran back to their unmarked radio car, but the driver had a head start and was able to get away on.  The car was a rental car and the officers initiated their own investigation and found out who rented the car.  Officers Lensi and Crum were able to identify the driver from a patrol alert that was issued four months prior involving the driver.  The alert indicated the driver was on parole for manslaughter and had now moved into Union.

On January 31, 2018, members of the Street Crimes Unit consisting of Officers Lensi, Crum, Oliveira and Kiselow led by Sergeant Mitchell established surveillance around the suspect’s residence. (They had been looking for him, but found his car on this date). 

Shortly thereafter Sergeant Mitchell observed the suspect leaving the location in his vehicle.  It was dismissal time at a nearby school so the area was occupied by children and parents.  Luckily the suspect drove away from the school while the officers kept the suspect under surveillance until a safe location could be found to effect an arrest. The SCU Officers coordinated their locations and executed a text book block and lock maneuver eliminating any avenue of escape the suspect had.  The suspect was taken into custody without incident and without damage to any property.   This was not a shoplifting suspect they were looking for, this was someone who they knew had murdered a rival drug dealer in Newark.

A subsequent search of the suspect vehicle revealed the following: a loaded Glock 9mm semi-automatic handgun. A loaded Smith and Wesson 40 caliber semi-automatic handgun loaded with hollow point bullets.  Six thousand four hundred and seventy-five (6,475) individual bags of Heroin.  A half (1/2) kilogram of Cocaine.  $2,705 in US currency.  The investigation also resulted in the seizure of a high end luxury vehicle.

This investigation drew the attention of the United States Attorney’s Office District of New Jersey who adopted the case for prosecution. The suspect is a violent career criminal with previous arrests for murder, weapons and CDS offenses.

PAT LA FERRARA – DISPATCHER OF THE YEAR AWARD

  • Communication Officer Megan Heaton

Pat LaFerrara spent 23 years with the police department.  During her time with the department Pat was deeply involved in the training and direction of new communications officers.  Pat was extremely dedicated and a cornerstone of our communication center.  Unfortunately, Pat lost her battle with cancer June 2010.  This award was established to honor her memory for her years of service and excellence she demonstrated as a Communications Officer, in addition to honoring the men and women who are deserving recipients.

On July 16, 2018, C.O. Megan Heaton conducted telephonic CPR instruction to the parent of a one year old child who had stopped breathing. C.O. Heaton remained calm and professional in a highly stressful situation. C.O. Heaton gave detailed instructions to the caller in a reassuring way, keeping the caller calm while providing lifesaving instructions. She remained on the phone with the caller through cycles of CPR until Union Fire Department and EMS arrived on scene. 

COMMAND CITATION

  • Police Officer Earl Biddy*
  • Sergeant Brian Neuman

*Officer Biddy was unable to attend the Police Week ceremony.

On January 17, 2019, officers from Platoon 1A responded to a call regarding a man with a rifle, waving it around and yelling about killing people. Units responded to the scene and established a perimeter of the building where the suspect was reported to be in. Upon doing so, officers made contact with the suspect who was standing on a balcony. The suspect appeared to be in crisis and was walking in and out of his apartment. The suspect was waving a knife and was screaming violently. Officers on scene were able to successfully calm the individual by speaking with him and convinced him to come down from the balcony. The individual was taken into custody without incident or injury to officers or the suspect.  Officers recovered a black pellet gun and folding knife at the scene.

COMMAND CITATION

  • Police Officer Alberto Dos Santos
  • Police Officer Nuno Lopes

On February 20, 2019, Dispatch received a call of a burglary in progress at 958 Wewanna Avenue.  The caller continuously provided updates to Dispatch as she received them from her neighbor who was hiding inside the residence being burglarized. According to the victim, the suspect(s) attempted to force open her front door while she was home. The victim hid in a closet while the suspect(s) entered her residence, stole items and fled in a white SUV. The caller was able to provide Dispatch with an accurate description of the suspect vehicle and driver as it fled the area.

Units arrived on scene, confirmed the residence was burglarized and provided additional suspect information to responding units. Officer Nuno Lopes and Officer Alberto Dos Santos responded from police headquarters and began checking Route 22 for the suspect vehicle. They ultimately located the suspect vehicle as it was traveling on Route 22.

Responding units successfully coordinated a motor vehicle stop and blocked in the suspect vehicle subsequently arresting the three (3) burglary suspects.

COMMAND CITATION

  • Police Officer Earl Biddy*
  • Police Officer Francine Rocha

*Officer Biddy was unable to attend the Police Week ceremony.

On January 6, 2019, Officer Earl Biddy III and Officer Francine Rocha were patrolling Springfield Avenue when they observed an individual jay walking and conducted a pedestrian stop of the individual.  The individual was known to both officers from prior incidents and was believed to have an active warrant for his arrest.  While placing the individual under arrest for the active warrant it was revealed he had a loaded revolver in his possession.  The individual was charged accordingly. 

COMMAND CITATION

  • Captain Pietro DiGena

On March 21, 2019, Captain Digena was traveling on Morris Ave near Colonial when he observed an individual sitting at a bus. The individual was looking around nervously with a hood covering his face.  When Captain Digena came back down the street to get a better look, he recognized that the individual matched the suspect in a recently distributed patrol alert of a burglary suspect wanted in connection with a burglary to a resident in the Township.

Captain Digena initiated contact with the individual and confirmed that he was in fact the burglary suspect wanted in connection with our burglary as well as crimes in Montclair.   Captain Digena arrested the suspect and turned him over to backup units for transport and processing.