Capitol Police Honors the Thin Blue Line’s Heroes

Posted March 28, 2008 at 5:39pm

While working the late shift one night in June 2007, Capitol Police Officer Ernest Rice was called to the scene of an accident near the Capitol complex.

When Rice arrived, he discovered another officer had crashed his patrol car, causing the vehicle’s engine to catch fire. But the crash also caused the driver’s side door to jam, preventing the officer from getting out. Meanwhile, the car continued to burn.

And that’s when Rice stepped in, pulling the other officer out of the car through the passenger side door just before the flames completely engulfed the vehicle. Amazingly, both managed to escape without any major injuries.

On Thursday evening, Chief Phillip Morse awarded Rice with the department’s Medal of Valor. It’s an honor given to a select few officers who perform a “heroic act” that saves a life, prevents a serious or violent crime, or nabs a person who committed a serious offense.

Morse also honored several dozen other officers and civilian personnel for a variety of accomplishments, including those who helped in the capture of Carlos Greene, the man who in September 2006 crashed a sport utility vehicle through a security barricade and subsequently led police on a chase through the Capitol.

The awardees “exemplify the finest traditions of the law enforcement profession,” Morse said at Thursday’s ceremony, held in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. “They personify the values of this police department.”

Other officers were honored for establishing new training initiatives, leading efforts to raise funds for the families of fallen officers and helping to assist Capitol workers and visitors who had fallen seriously ill on the Congressional campus.

The Patrol Division K-9 team and the House Division Uniformed Services Bureau also were awarded as a unit for their work during the past year.

WTOP reporter Dave McConnell served as master of ceremonies at the event, introducing officers and providing short presentations on each award. Assistant Chief Dan Nichols and House Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Livingood also attended the ceremony.

The night seemed to bring together much of the department, a diverse force of officers and civilian employees whose round-the-clock duties often prevent them from getting together as a unit. As Morse handed officers their awards, family members snapped photos, and several children were spotted sporting one of their mom’s or dad’s fancy officer dress hats.

And although McConnell had the microphone most of the night, Morse did take time to personally present special honors to civilian employees Jeff Miller and Richard Braddock, who served as acting heads of the force’s financial management department from October 2007 until Gloria Jarmon took over as the department’s chief administrative officer in February.

Lawmakers have put significant pressure on the department to clean up its finances since the start of the 110th Congress, and Morse has labeled doing so one of his top priorities.

When former Chief Administrative Officer Tony Stamilio and Maryjean Buhler, former director of the Office of Financial Management, left the department in the fall, a significant void was created, Morse noted.

So Morse went to Miller and Braddock and asked them to serve in acting roles until the right person could be found. Both took on big duties — Miller helped prepare the department’s fiscal 2009 budget request, while Braddock tackled several big projects, including a study of the department’s manpower, Morse noted.

“These are two employees who stepped up to the plate,” Morse said.

Management of the department’s finances has significantly improved over the past several months, Morse said, adding that he has been pleased so far with the performance of Jarmon, who took over as CAO just a few weeks ago.

Thursday’s ceremony also served to officially promote 32 officers, who were sworn in by Morse as sergeants, lieutenants, captains, inspectors and deputy chiefs.

Officers face a busy schedule over the next few months. Not only must the force plan for annual events such as the Fourth of July concert, officials must send much of the department to the upcoming political conventions to protect Members and assist other law enforcement agencies.

And then there’s the preparation needed for the 2009 presidential inauguration.

“We are actively planning,” Morse said after the ceremony. “We certainly have a jump on all of them.”