They saved lives on and off-duty in Morris County, exposing themselves to danger and risk of injury or harm.
Others honorably served the United States in the Armed Forces or advanced their educations and job skills while balancing work and family life.
Others contributed greatly to a program designed to keep students focused, safe in the classroom, and empowered to contribute to a secure environment.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon on Friday, November 15, recognized and applauded notable achievements made by Agency Officers and non-sworn staff in the Bureaus of Law Enforcement and Corrections over the past 12 months, during his 2019 Medal Day ceremony held at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum.
The event that drew together Commanding Officers, colleagues, family members and friends was solemnized by the presentation of colors by the Morris County Sheriff’s Office Joint Honor Guard. Sheriff’s Office Detective Captain Denise Thornton and Bureau of Corrections Lieutenant Andrew Bileci announced the awards for Officers and staff in their respective bureaus while Sheriff Gannon handed out plaques and medals.
“In the most positive way, we are redefining the meaning and boundaries of being law enforcement Officers,” said Sheriff Gannon, Morris County’s 77th Sheriff. “I love the history of Morris County and I think we are adding to its outstanding history through our programs, the services we share with all 39 municipalities, and the ways we connect with the community.”
All award recipients were aware they would be honored at the ceremony except for Bureau of Corrections Captain Robert McCaffrey, a 25-year Officer who recently received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from County College of Morris and was given an award for educational excellence.
The Sheriff’s Achievement Medal was given to six Officers from both Bureaus for their significant contributions to a ground-breaking school safety program called RSVP-3, which Sheriff Gannon started in collaboration with the Morris County Chiefs of Police Association in 2018, immediately after the Valentine’s Day murders of students and teachers by a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
RSVP-3, which stands for Responsible School Violence Prevention, Preparation and Protection, has four components: Intelligence gathering through the Morris County Sheriff’s Trends and Analysis Team (MCSTAT); the RSVP-3 Morris County, NJ app through which students can anonymously report threats to school safety; Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management (BTAM) curriculum that guides school leaders, police and mental health professionals on behavioral warning signs; and tactical training on neutralizing active shooters in school, houses of worship and public institutions.
The recipients of the Sheriff’s Achievement Medal are: Sheriff’s Investigator Ashley Craig, who oversees the RSVP-3 app and BTAM training schedule; Sheriff’s Officer Frank Perez, Detective Lieutenant Walter Rawa, Detective Sergeant James Rae, Corrections Bureau Sergeant John Davidek and Corrections Corporal Matt Cilurso, who all are part of the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team (SERT) and train fellow Officers and Officers from other agencies on tactical responses.
Detective Sergeant Rae and Corporal Cilurso are specifically assigned on a daily basis to SERT, which is tasked with patrolling Morris County and ensuring that infrastructure sites, schools and houses of worship are protected.
The additional following Officers in the BUREAU OF CORRECTIONS received awards:
- LIFE SAVING AWARD. Officer Richard Quinn. On May 22, 2019, he had left work and noticed a car on a sidewalk at an intersection in Morris Township. He parked, and noticed an unresponsive male in the driver seat. He attempted to awaken the man, who remained unresponsive, and tried but could not enter the locked car that was still in drive, with an asthma pump visible on the passenger seat. He called 911. With the assistance of other passing police officers, the vehicle was opened. Officer Quinn and a Morris Township Officer moved the male to the sidewalk where chest compressions and life-saving techniques were applied. He also assisted with directing traffic as the driver was transported from the scene by ambulance.
- HONORABLE SERVICE AWARD. Corrections Sergeant Robert Doriety and Corporal Peter Lohmus. They were recognized for outstanding devotion to the Morris County Sheriff’s Office Motor Unit, which provides motorcycle security escorts for President Donald Trump, infrastructure checks, and, whenever needed and often upon late notice, motorcycle escorts and participation at public events and parades.
- EXCEPTIONAL DUTY MEDAL: Corrections Officer Danielle Vandenbos. She achieved top honors during the firearms training portion of her Passaic County Basic Corrections class. She outperformed 21 of her fellow classmates to earn the “Top Shot” award.
The following Officers and non-sworn staff from the BUREAU OF LAW ENFORCEMENT, along with a recipient from a partnership Agency, received awards:
- LIFE SAVING MEDAL. Sheriff’s Office Detective Christina Kovacs and Morris County Office of Emergency Management Director Jeffrey Paul, who also is commander of the Special Operations Group (SOG) that provides medical support to SERT members. On July 14, 2019, SERT and SOG responded to a reported shooting at a home in Jefferson Township, with the alleged perpetrator believed to still be at-large. One victim, speaking by telephone to Jefferson police, indicated he was wounded, that minors were in the house, and he did not know the whereabouts of the alleged shooter. SERT members, Jefferson Township police and SOG members Detective Kovacs and Commander Paul entered the home. While SERT and Jefferson police cleared the home and removed the minors, Detective Kovacs and Commander Paul rendered lifesaving medical treatment to the victim inside the home. Without hesitation in an extremely dynamic scene, they stabilized and transported the victim out of the “hot zone” and to a higher level of care.
- MERITORIOUS SERVICE MEDAL. Corporal Matthew Cilurso. As a SERT member, he responded the evening of July 14, 2019, to a reported shooting at a home in Jefferson. Without knowing the whereabouts of the alleged shooter, a joint law enforcement decision was made to enter the home, remove minors and attend to a shooting victim inside the house. Corporal Cilurso was among the first law enforcement Officers to enter the home. Corporal Cilurso’s team cleared and secured the home, allowing for life-saving aid to be given to the injured victim and removal of the minors. He performed intelligently, with some degree of personal hazard of life, and under circumstances demonstrating a disregard of personal consequences.
- HONORABLE SERVICE MEDAL. Detective Corporal Michael McMahon. On November 7, 2018, Detective Corporal McMahon and his K-9 Kaiser responded to a reported armed robbery in Boonton Township in which a handgun was displayed. While searching the area for suspects with K-9 Kaiser, Detective Corporal McMahon learned that one suspect had just knocked on a resident’s door requesting to use their phone. Two suspects were taken into custody and provided information about a third suspect, who allegedly carried the handgun. Without regard for his personal safety, Detective Corporal McMahon used K-9 Kaiser in an off-leash search before expanding the search area so that it extended to a wood line and the Rockaway River. K-9 Kaiser located and apprehended the final suspect, who was hiding in heavy brush. Detective Corporal McMahon and other law enforcement officers took the suspect into custody and searched for the weapon, ultimately using K-9 Kaiser to perform an off-leash evidence search of the area before the loaded 9mm handgun was found, wrapped in a sweatshirt and hidden behind a vehicle in the wood line.
- EXCEPTIONAL DUTY MEDAL. Greg Baxter and Detective Corporal Michael McMahon. For a second time in his career, Greg Baxter has received the Exceptional Duty Medal. On September 30, 2019, a female left a facility in Morris Township and allegedly was the victim of a crime. The female reported the incident. Greg Baxter, of the Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Unit, reviewed video footage to assist and identify the suspect and later developed a photo array. His work enabled authorities to ultimately apprehend a suspect. His knowledge, time and efficiency have proven to be invaluable.
Detective Corporal McMahon received a second award on Friday – the Exceptional Duty Medal – for his participation on March 15, 2019, in the United States Police Canine Association Narcotics Detection Trial/Certification in Region 7. The trial featured 18 K-9 teams from New York and New Jersey. Upon completion, he and K-9 Kaiser were awarded third place for fastest time, first place for motor vehicle work, and second place overall. He achieved a highly credible ranking that brought acclaim to himself and the Sheriff’s Office.
- NATIONAL DEFENSE SERVICE. Sheriff’s Officers Jonathan Feinberg and Robert Forte. Officer Feinberg honorably served with the United States Navy in 2012 in the Mediterranean Sea during Operation Enduring Freedom. Officer Forte honorably served with the United States Marines in 2014 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
- EXECUTIVE LEVEL LEADERSHIP TRAINING. Detective Captain Denise Thornton. She is a 2019 graduate of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police Command and Leadership Academy which prepares law enforcement Officers for challenges in the field during upcoming decades. The Academy offers a unique blend of theory and application, with a curriculum developed through the United States Military Academy at West Point. Leadership is studied as a science with logic, critical thinking, methodology and vision.
Gia DeVino, of the Sheriff’s Office Warrants Section, was promoted to Keyboarding Clerk 3.
Russell Moser, of the Sheriff’s Office Systems Support and Purchasing Unit, was promoted to Senior Systems Analyst.
Bhavna Patel, of the Sheriff’s Office CSI Section, was promoted to Keyboarding Clerk 4.
Katherine Petraccoro, of the Sheriff’s Office CSI Section, was promoted to Keyboarding Clerk 3.