Chief Meder reports 2016 Police Awards recipients

At the town council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 21, Chief Meder presented the 2016 Police Awards.

Medford is home to many dedicated police officers, and just before the New Year arrived, a few were honored for their exceptional service exemplified over the past year. At the Town Council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 20, Chief Richard J. Meder was in attendance to present the 2016 Police Awards.

“In recent years, a lot of negative things have been said about the police profession,” Meder said. “The reality is that our profession is not an easy one, but those who have chosen to [serve] have made an unending commitment to make their community a safer and better place to live.”

After thanking police families and town council staff for their continued support, Meder explained that 2016 has been a difficult year for law enforcement. He noted that to date 138 officers had been killed nationwide in the line of duty — a 10 percent increase from 2015.

The first recipients of the night, Sgt. Shawn McVeigh, Cpl. George Jackson and Officer William Webb, were recognized for an case in which they exemplified a strong commitment to their line of duty. On Feb 22, the officers responded to a residence for a check of obedience. Upon arrival, the officers noticed an individual had exited his window onto the roof and threatened to jump.

“The officers worked together and initiated the dialogue to reason with the subject, and after 90 minutes, they convinced the individual not to jump and he came down off the roof unharmed,” Meder said. “For their actions, all officers were offered a letter of commendation.”

In May, Officer Ed McKemey was reportedly off-duty and on his way to work when he observed a suspicious subject enter a kiosk of a gas station on Route 70, then quickly flee across the roadway. McKemey took action although off-duty, stopped the individual, determined he has just committed a theft inside the kiosk and took him into custody. For his alertness off duty and quick action, McKemey was awarded a letter of commendation.

Almost three months later, on Wednesday, July 20, officers responded to CVS Pharmacy for the report of a subject attempting to pass a fraudulent prescription. When Officer Greg Blash arrived, he observed a vehicle occupied by three subjects quickly leave. While inside the CVS, he encountered the suspect, and during his investigation, he took her into custody. Based on her statement to Blash, other units began checking the area for suspects and the vehicle that had been called in.

Then, Webb located the unoccupied vehicle in a nearby parking lot and determined the suspects were possibly inside another business. Additionally, officers were notified by an off-duty lieutenant of suspicious activity in a local restaurant. The officers confronted two more suspects inside the business, while Cpl. John Higgins stayed inside the vehicle and was able to make observations that later provided probable cause for a search warrant.

“Cpl. George Jackson and Officer Webb, who responded to the off-duty lieutenant’s location, later determined that the last suspect had attempted to burn evidence in the restaurant bathroom, creating a potentially dangerous situation for the occupied restaurant,” Meder said. “Det. William Knecht responded and conducted the search warrant and obtained interviews and confessions of all three suspects.”

Knecht was able to identify the fourth suspect who fled the area after starting the fire, who was later taken into custody. All suspects were charged with various offenses including aggravated arson, conspiracy, receiving stolen property, uttering a forged document and CDS charges. Ultimately, for their teamwork and professionalism, all involved officers were awarded the certificate of merit.

Next, on Oct. 7, a home invasion robbery occurred just over the Medford border into Mt. Laurel Township. The suspects were reportedly armed with handguns. The vehicle was later observed at a gas station on Route 70 in Medford by a Mt. Laurel officer who requested backup from Medford and attempted to approach the suspects. The vehicle fled out to Route 70, and Webb responded to the request for backup, and pursued the vehicle into Evesham Township where the three occupants jumped out of the stolen vehicle and fled on foot.

Webb, with the assistance of Officer C.J. Walsh, was able to run down the vehicle and slow it down to a stop, later catching two of the three suspects. The third suspect was later taken into custody. For their actions, both servicemen were awarded with a honorable service medal.

Adding to the Medford Township Police Department’s success over the course of 2016, police responded to numerous calls for narcotics overdoses. As a result, the police department conducted 10 narcan saves throughout the course of the year. Blash, Higgins, Jackson, Officer Chris Matson, Walsh, Officer Dan Lund, Cpl. Jeff Samalonis, Officer Troy Chenier, Officer Andrew Haggerty, Officer Kurt Denning, SFC Mike Seybold and Cpl. Jeff Pultrone each aided in a save. For their lifesaving efforts and the utilization of narcan, each officer was awarded a letter of commendation.

On Oct. 17, officers were dispatched to a suicidal subject who was armed with a knife. Lund was first on scene, and encountered the armed subject in the street and attempted to communicate to the subject that he needed to drop the knife. In response, the subject threw his phone at the ground and yelled for Lund to shoot him.

Soon after, Seybold, Samalonis and Denning arrived on scene, and the subject continued to yell at the officers that he wanted to die and yelled for officers to shoot him. Lund maintained composure and continued to speak with the subject, eventually convincing him to drop the knife. The man was transported to the crisis center for help, with no injuries to the officers or to the subject. For his actions, Lund was awarded an honorable service medal, while Seybold, Samalonis and Denning were presented with letters of commendation.

Lastly, Knecht, SFC Robert Zane, Seybold, Pultrone, Samalonis, Jackson, Chenier, McKemey and Blash all contributed to an ongoing CDS and CDS fraud investigation, stemming back to 2010. For their involvement in this case, Knecht and Samalonis were awarded certificates of merit, and the remaining officers were presented with letters of commendation.

For more information on the Medford Township Police Department, visit http://medford-police.org.