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Criminal Justice Update

Awards recognize outstanding accomplishments

A dozen individuals and groups received Ohio Distinguished Law Enforcement Awards at the Ohio Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Conference in October. Among them: first-responders to the Chardon school shooting, a sheriff’s staff that ensured public safety after the release of dozens of exotic animals near Zanesville, and the first officer on the scene of a shooting that left eight dead in Copley.

Lifetime Achievement Award
Detective Jeffrey S. Collins
Columbus Division of Police
One sign of a person’s influence is the number of people who follow in his path. By that and many other measures, Detective Jeffery S. Collins can take great pride in his life’s work. His daughter Heather is a Columbus detective, and several members of the Boy Scout Explorer Post that Collins advised also are with Ohio police departments. When Collins realized that many post members had dropped out of school, he launched a program to help them prepare for the GED. Still, they felt their lack of a “real” diploma would hold them back — until Collins showed them his own GED diploma. In his 39 years with the force, Collins worked in the Patrol, Radio, SWAT, Crime Scene Search, Special Forces Airport, Ordnance, and Detective Bureau, earning many commendations from citizens, colleagues, and supervisors.
Training Award
Captain Dale A. Soltis
Summit County Sheriff’s Office
Capt. Dale A. Soltis is a born teacher. A member of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office since 1985, Soltis holds a bachelor’s degree in education, which he’s put to good use. Soltis earned his peace officer instructor certificate in 1991 and has amassed a mountain of training and instructor certificates in the years since. His students have ranged from law enforcement officers enrolled in firearms, ethics, and other courses to adults in Red Cross CPR classes to youngsters in DARE. He was named training division commander in 2006 and is a go-to instructor for his and other departments as well as basic academies.
Service Award
Assistant Chief Cindy M. Combs
Cincinnati Police Department
Leadership is in Lt. Col. Cindy M. Combs’ blood. Combs retired in April after 32 years with the Cincinnati Police Department, including more than 10 years as assistant chief of police. She was the first woman in her department to fill that role. As assistant chief, she oversaw a budget of more than $100 million along with grants, human resources, information technology and records functions, police academy operations, training, and evidence management. She co-developed Cincinnati’s Neighborhood Enhancement Program, named the top program of its kind in the U.S. in 2008, and she spearheaded the purchase and build-out of the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Regional Operations Center, which houses emergency communication, IT, crime analysis, and tactical planning functions.
Group Achievement Award
Northwest Ohio Violent Crimes Against Children Task Force
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Special Agent James E. Hardie, Task Force Coordinator
Special Agent Laura E. Lebo
Victim Specialist Jennifer Jo Meyers
Bureau of Criminal Investigation
Special Agent David W. Pauly
Ohio State Highway Patrol
Trooper Stacy L. Stidham
Lima Police Department
Investigator David R. Gillispie
Perrysburg Township Police Department
Detective Scott C. Moskowitz
Toledo Police Department
Detective Peter J. Swartz
Fulton County Sheriff’s Office
Agent Alessandra Norden
Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office
Detective Amy J. Harrell
Getting any federal task force off the ground takes time and hard work, and the Northwest Ohio Violent Crimes Against Children Task Force was no exception. Today, the efforts are paying off. Formed in 2006 to combat a significant juvenile sex trafficking problem in Toledo, the task force is one of 44 operating under the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative. The task force has recovered or identified more than 100 juvenile victims of prostitution since its inception and is involved in about 40 active investigations. Since 2010, it has charged about 25 subjects, and many have been convicted. The task force was among three of 44 asked to participate in the FBI’s national Crimes Against Children Unit best-practices symposium to showcase its work with victims.
Group Achievement Award
Muskingum County Sheriff’s Office
Members of the Muskingum County Sheriff’s Office faced a situation the night of Oct. 18, 2011, that no law enforcement officer would ever dream of confronting: A resident whose farm abutted Interstate 70 just minutes west of Zanesville had released 48 exotic animals and taken his own life. Amazingly, the only human life lost was that of the animals’ owner. But deputies were forced to shoot dozens of creatures to ensure public safety, including 18 tigers, 17 lions, three mountain lions, and two bears. In response, Ohio legislators passed a law that bans the acquisition, sale, and breeding of restricted species beginning in January 2014 and requires current owners to register their animals with the state.
Group Achievement Award
Chardon Police Department
Geauga County Sheriff’s Office
Geauga County Prosecutor’s Office
Bureau of Criminal Investigation
Chester Township Police Department
Ohio State Highway Patrol
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Several law enforcement officers responding to the shooting at Chardon High School in February had children in the school. But they still got right to work, trusting that school officials would safeguard their kids. School District Superintendent Joseph Bergant said that typified officers’ heroism throughout the ordeal. Within minutes of the 911 call, first responders were on the scene, where six students had been shot in the school cafeteria. Three of the students died, and another was paralyzed. Intelligence gathered from hundreds of students, teachers, and administrators revealed a suspect, whom authorities tracked through the woods and apprehended within the first hour. He faces multiple charges, including three counts of aggravated murder.
Meritorious Service Award
Officer Stephen Bower
Cincinnati Police Department
Office Stephen Bower was working an off-duty detail in northeast Cincinnati in the early morning hours of Aug. 2, 2011, when the manager of a nearby bar asked him to respond to a fight in a parking lot. The officer positioned his cruiser in an adjoining parking lot to get a good view of the scene and saw a subject firing toward a crowd. When Bower ordered the man to drop his gun, the suspect fired at him and fled the parking lot. The officer began to pursue him when shots rang out from the area where onlookers had gathered. Bower abandoned the pursuit and took cover, and the shooters fled. Later, a man believed to be the original suspect sought treatment for a gunshot wound and was arrested.
Meritorious Service Award
Officer Theodore Davis
Officer Joel A. Moledor
Cuyahoga Falls Police Department
Officers Theodore Davis and Joel A. Moledor were dispatched to a Cuyahoga Falls residence shortly after midnight on Nov. 21, 2011, and heard a woman screaming for help and her estranged husband yelling at her in a locked garage. Moledor kicked in a side door of the garage, and the officers found the woman on the ground bleeding and the man holding a knife. On officers’ orders, the man dropped his weapon and was taken into custody. He was charged with five crimes, including attempted murder.
Meritorious Service Award
Patrolman Kyle Nietert
University Heights Police Department
Five family members have Patrolman Kyle Nietert to thank for their lives following a 2 a.m. house fire on July 9, 2011. Already on patrol nearby, Nietert arrived at the home 45 seconds after the emergency broadcast. A man leaning from an upstairs window shouted that he, his wife, and three children were trapped on the second floor by flames and smoke. Within three minutes of his arrival, and before fire units arrived, Patrolman Nietert rescued the family, whose members suffered only minor smoke inhalation. He also assisted three firefighters injured in the blaze, one seriously.
Meritorious Service Award
Officer Diondre Winstead
Cincinnati Police Department
Officer Diondre Winstead responded to Cincinnati’s College Hill neighborhood the evening of Nov. 5, 2011, to help apprehend an armed felon spotted by members of a local citizens’ patrol.  The man fled on foot, and Officer Winstead gave chase. The subject jumped a three-foot wall onto an elevated driveway, where he pulled a gun and fired at the officer. Fearing injury to innocent people, Winstead did not return fire, but continued to pursue the subject. He and fellow officers found the man hiding in bushes and took him into custody.
Valor Award
Officer Ben Campbell
Copley Police Department
Responding to reports of an active shooter in a Copley neighborhood the morning of Aug. 7, 2011, Officer Ben Campbell tracked down and engaged the subject without waiting for backup. Afterward, he learned the man had just shot seven people to death and severely wounded another. The man went on the shooting spree as he and his girlfriend prepared for an out-of-state trip, shooting her, her family members, and neighbors. As the officer approached, the subject emerged from behind a tree and raised his gun. Campbell fired three shots, killing the subject.