Dozens of Santa Maria Police officers and city employees were honored at an awards luncheon Wednesday, including a team that played a vital role in implementing a new, multimillion-dollar public safety dispatch system that went live in November 2019.
The annual event, which was organized by the nonprofit Santa Maria Police Council, was held at the Elks Lodge to honor the Santa Maria Police Department employees for their accomplishments in 2019.
Approximately 100 people in attendance who were treated to a tri-tip lunch included Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office employees, members of the Santa Maria City Council and several SMPD officers.
The event recognizes the extraordinary work of the department's men and women during a time of intense scrutiny placed on police officers, said Santa Maria Police Chief Phil Hansen.
He cited the rise of rise of social media and the proliferation of camera phones, which he said have tended to capture only the poor performance of a few officers.
The Santa Maria police and fire departments have completed a multiyear project to upgrade their public safety dispatch system that city officials say will improve response times and allow emergency responders to communicate more efficiently.
"The positives seldom make news," Hansen said. "That's why doing this is so important."
The Distinguished Team Award was given to a group of Santa Maria police officers and information technology employees who worked together during the last three years to build and implement a state-of-the-art computer-aided dispatch and records management system, which is meant to provide improved response times and enhance coordination between police and fire units.
Officer Matthew Boland received the Lifesaving Award, which is given for a heroic life-saving attempt in the line of duty, whether the attempt was successful or not.
On June 7, 2019, Boland was dispatched to the home of a distraught elderly woman who called police to report that her husband had threatened suicide.
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Hansen said Boland was the sole officer who responded to the call while other officers were engaged in a foot pursuit of a robbery suspect at the same time.
Boland located the man hanging by a rope inside the home's garage and lifted the man from the rope, thus saving his life, Hansen said.
Two officers, Stephen "Max" Shaffer and Alfredo Rodriguez, each were awarded certificates of commendation for a single act of extraordinary work performance.
Shaffer was honored for his quick response to a June 21 shooting and fire at Casa Grande Mobile Home Estates that left five dead.
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Rodriguez was recognized for his efforts in coordinating the response to the Nov. 4 shooting at a home in the 900 block of West Williams Street that left one man dead and a 17-year-old boy injured.
The Support Employee of the Year Award was given to Santa Maria police records technician and 13-year veteran Brenda Cabonce for her role in processing a high volume of California Highway Patrol forms related to vehicles that are stolen, recovered or impounded.
Four officers — Tiffanie Delaney, Andres Lopez, Cole Whitney and Sgt. Woody Vega — received the Employee of the Quarter Award, given to employees who are "respected by their peers, committed to serving the community and dedicated to the department's values," Hansen said.
Delaney, who was not present at the ceremony, was selected as the Department's law enforcement officer of the year and given credit for the 230 DUI arrests she made last year.
"Officer Delaney represents our department in a positive, professional manner, without expectation of personal reward," Hansen said.
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