SUSSEX COUNTY, NJ - Three law enforcement officers were honored by the 200 Club on Tuesday for exemplifying the best of local policing. The pandemic made the event smaller but the heroics of the officers receiving the recognition were as large as ever.
The organization represented by Trustees Pat Aramini, Eskil "Skip" Danielson and John Drake presented two Merit Awards and a Valor award at the New Jersey State Police Trooper Barracks in Augusta with family and fellow officers.
Vernon Township Police Officer John Gales received the Merit Award for his “extraordinary life saving effort.” September 2, 2020 was a “beautiful fall day,” Gales said when he was called to the scene of a motorcycle accident. The accident took place on a section of road well known to the officers as the scene of many accidents. When he arrived Gales found the driver and passenger both injured from having crashed into the guardrail.
Gales requested medevac extraction of both victims. While the driver was in and out of consciousness, Gales recognized the passenger’s leg was nearly completely severed so he applied a tourniquet. Later that shift, trauma center physician called the Vernon Police Department to let Gales know that the tourniquet “definitely saved the victim’s life.”
Gales said he had received the training not only at the academy but had just gone through Velumcore’s “tac med” training with Lawrence Wilson in Sparta.
“I’m proud of his hard work,” Vernon Township Police Chief Dan Young said. “He is an asset to our department.”
Gale’s wife and three children were by his side as he received a plaque and pin from Danielson trustee of the Sussex County 200 Club.
The story behind the other two awards is something out of a movie. New Jersey State Troopers Sean Sullivan and Russell Cahn were heading back to the barracks from a previous call on October 7, 2019, when they were sent back out to locate a lost hiker, Cahn said.
In the Yellow Frame section of Fredon the officers drove about a mile then walked down the Yellow Trail, carrying rope and a trauma bag. The officer marked their trail with flares for rescuers from Green and Stillwater Township that were following.
The officers made contact with the hiker by using their whistles.
“This may be the first time someone was saved by the whistle,” NJSP Major Peter Velez quipped, referring to the equipment required to be worn by the officers.
“We didn’t find him where we thought he would be,” Cahn said.
The hiker was hanging onto a tree on a steep incline to keep from falling 80 feet to the base of the cliff. It was dark and rainy and the ground on which he and his dog were perched was unstable. The officers first thought to go around to get to him from a different vantage point but decided it would take too long and be possibly just as dangerous.
They decided Sullivan would go down and bring them back up. Sullivan had experience with this type of maneuver from his time in the military, Cahn said.
Using additional rope provided by the fire department, Sullivan lowered down and sent the dog up first.
“We knew the ground was unstable and the dog could make the situation worse if he got excited,” Cahn said explaining the reason they pulled the dog up before the hiker. The hiker was suffering from hypothermia when he and Sullivan were pulled to safety.
“I am proud to be here to honor them,” NJSP Captain and Regional Commander David Dias said. “It could not be more well deserved.”
Cahn was given the Merit Award and Sullivan earned the Valor Award. Drake explained a Merit Award is given to officers for service above and beyond the call of duty. The Valor Award is for officers who risk personal safety in their service.
Sullivan's wife and daughter were also in attendance.
The 200 Club has a presence in all counties in New Jersey as well as across the country, Danielson said. The organization traces its roots to Detroit where it began as the 100 Club. The number refers to the donation amount to become a member, Drake said.
The $200 membership is not limited to law enforcement members but open to all people and businesses who wish to support their mission to support officers and first responders. First Responders include members of local police and fire departments, EMS agencies, the Sussex County Sheriff’s Office or New Jersey State Police who live or serve in Sussex County.
The organization provides scholarships to the first responders or their children.
They also provide $10,000 for officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty, Aramini, Danielson and Drake explained.
According to the Sussex County 200 Club’s website, 99.9% of all revenue is given back to the community.