Narratives for each Honoree at the HPD Police Week Awards Ceremony

Shelly Molina

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR – Officer Eric Bertrand

From April 2016 to January 2017, Officer Eric Bertrand has run a total of 1021 calls for service, made 265 offense reports, 17 felony arrests; and 14 misdemeanor arrests. Some of Officer Bertrand’s accomplishments include, seizing 219.5 grams of Xanax, 118 grams of marihuana, 9.03 grams of cocaine, 7.6 grams of ecstasy, $900 in cash, and several guns, including a gun that was reported stolen.

 

INSTRUCTOR OF THE YEAR – Senior Police Officer Kristin Uhlin

SPO Kristin Uhlin serves as the lead Narcotics Canine Instructor. She works with the Houston Forensic Science Center controlled substances section locating and securing narcotic training aids to be used for the Canine Detail and is also responsible for the selection of new Narcotic Canines. SPO Uhlin teaches the basic 160 hour T.C.O.L.E. Certified Narcotic Detection School for handlers and their new canine partners as well as being tasked with the weekly Narcotic Canine Training for all the department’s canines as well as those from outside agencies training with HPD.

 

FTO OF THE YEAR – Officer Amir Nikooie

Officer Amir Nikooie consistently performs the duties required of a Field Training Officer at a level well beyond the most seasoned officer of the department. He has the patience and due diligence to train new probationary officers who have arrived at their first assignment with an elevated stress levels and little experience. Officer Nikooie has the ability to teach probationary police officers the skills they need to develop into skilled veteran officers. Officer Nikooie has that valuable ability to bring the best out of people and is without a doubt a precious commodity to the Field Training Program.

 

1st PATROL OFFICER OF THE YEAR – Officer Jason Rhodes

While on routine patrol, Officer Jason Rhodes observed two suspicions males he believed to be preparing to commit a robbery. Officer Rhodes notified dispatch and approached the suspects. Upon seeing Officer Rhodes, the suspects fled on foot headed in different directions. He pursued one suspect into a nearby field, where the suspect turned to face him and began shooting. Officer Rhodes dropped to the ground, rolling to make himself a more difficult target. In spite of being hit in the arm, Officer Rhodes drew his weapon and returned fire. Although Officer Rhodes lost sight of the suspects, he was able to establish a perimeter to contain the suspects who were later apprehended by responding units.

 

2nd PATROL OFFICER OF THE YEAR – Officer Gerald Makey

Officer Gerald Makey has been an officer for over three and a half years. In 2016 he made 113 arrests including 20 felonies, 19 misdemeanors and filed 31 charges while responding to 585 calls for service as the primary unit and backing up his fellow officers as a secondary unit 106 times. Officer Makey responded to a call involving a military veteran in crisis who was threatening suicide with a knife. The veteran refused commands to drop the knife forcing Officer Makey to deploy his taser which allowed him to take the man into custody for treatment.

 

PATROL SUPERVISOR OF THE YEAR – Sergeant Kristi Barnes

Sergeant Kristi Barnes consistently exhibits exceptional leadership in her assignment as a Greenspoint sergeant. On multiple occasions she has demonstrated that she excels in team building and developing her subordinates. She has demonstrated, and her officers recognize, that she has a complete knowledge of not just her job, but their job as well. She doesn’t just supervise her officers, she works side-by-side with them, providing guidance and leadership when needed and taking command of scenes as required.

 

CIVILIAN SUPPORT SERVICES EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR – Senior Police

Telecommunicator Karla Vaughan

The North Division Tactical Unit was working on an operation and requested Senior Police Telecommunicator Karla Vaughan as their dispatcher because of her professionalism, trustworthiness, meticulousness, accuracy and her ability to monitor and document two channels at once.  At the end of the operation, five suspects were arrested on multiple counts of capital murder. Vaughan’s call slip was a thorough and accurate document of the events. Her drive to be there for the officers’ safety is unsurpassed.

TACTICAL OFFICER OF THE YEAR – Officer Christopher Levrier

Officer Christopher Levrier has led his squad in arrests, number of gang members documented, and the seizure of guns, money and narcotics. His abilities as a tactical officer were instrumental in the arrests of three MS-13 gang members in a high profile murder. Officer Levrier stopped a suspected MS-13 Gang Member and detected a strong odor of marijuana.  It was determined this was the same vehicle captured on video surveillance used in the aforementioned murder. While being interviewed, the suspects provided the name of a third suspect. All three were charged with murder.

 

UNDERCOVER INVESTIGATOR OF THE YEAR – Senior Police Officer Ariel Ferrer

Throughout 2016, Officer Ariel Ferrer has been conducting a complex long term undercover investigation into high ranking officials and cartel affiliates utilizing the Houston metro area as a narco-trafficking corridor with tentacles reaching throughout the United States. To date, Officer Ferrer’s undercover efforts have led to three wire investigations, three telephonic pen registers, seven telephonic ping orders, the arrest of 16 individuals, the seizure of over $180,000 in US currency, three firearms, five vehicles, and 80 kilograms of cocaine.

 

SPECIALIZED OFFICER OF THE YEAR – Senior Police Officer Donald Egdorf

Officer Donald Egdorf serves as liaison to government and private entities that are necessary to Task Force operations. He is the lead instructor for all DWI related training for the department,  teaching cadets and officers about DWI enforcement and the correct application of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. He is an instructor for the Texas District and County Attorney’s Association and teaches their DWI related classes to prosecutors and officers. He is the department liaison to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office and works with their Vehicular Crimes Section. Officer Egdorf provides expert testimony in DWI and vehicle death cases and completes follow-up investigations at their request. He wrote, produced and helped film Driving Wet Lab which was designed to show the effects of alcohol and driving. The video is an invaluable tool for DWI education in the criminal justice arena.

 

CIT OFFICER OF THE YEAR – Officer Kyndall Griffin

Officer Kyndall Griffin had only been an officer for two years when he transferred to the Mental Health Division. In a ten month period, he responded to 565 calls for service, 80 on-view incidents, 10 jail assessments, 39 Harris Center referrals and executed over 140 emergency detention orders. His aptitude for the job was demonstrated when he was sent to assess a woman burning books inside her mother’s home, putting everyone inside in danger. Officer Griffin decided to file an emergency detention order and, using a calm voice, alerted the woman of the actions he was going to take as he approached her. Officer Griffin was able to handcuff and transport the woman to the Neuropsychiatric Center without incident.  

 

DRT/CSO OF THE YEAR – Senior Police Officer Dennis Domagas

As a DRT officer, in 2016 Dennis Domagas completed 641 DRT investigations, inspected 31 convenience stores and 17 massage establishments, conducted 695 crime initiatives, completed 286 offense reports and 23 accident reports. Because of his expertise in massage establishment inspections, he was selected to assist in a citywide DRT effort to inspect all massage establishments in the city of Houston. He teamed up with two officers on a self-initiated project to identify illicit massage establishments in the Midwest jurisdiction. They conducted 50 inspections at 41 locations and assisted in 10 human trafficking operations, resulting in 176 citations, 30 arrests, 6 suspects accepted in the Prostitution Deferral Program, and the closing of 5 illicit businesses.

 

SENIOR POLICE OFFICER OF THE YEAR – Senior Police Officer Shane Borak

Officer Shane Borak is relentless in apprehending suspects involved in major crimes in the Northwest area. He knows the majority of these individuals by sight and name. In the last year, Officer Borak was responsible for 63 Felony and 68 misdemeanor arrests. In the past year Officer Borak was responsible for removing large amounts of illegal drugs from the streets, provided updated information on numerous gang members and arrested and charged 29 of them with Aggravated Robbery, Felony Assaults, Auto Theft/UUMV, various drug offenses and various weapons violations.

PROACTIVE INVESTIGATOR OF THE YEAR – Senior Police Officer Tien Nguyen

Officer Tien Nguyen is assigned to the Houston Money Laundering Initiative task force whose mission is to dismantle and disrupt money laundering organizations. In addition, Officer Nguyen enthusiastically conducts his own narcotics investigations which have resulted in large seizures of narcotics. Over the past 10 months, Officer Nguyen has initiated numerous investigations involving the illicit sale of heroin in the city of Houston. He exhibits a very strong work ethic and a passion for enforcing narcotic laws and protecting our community. Officer Nguyen maintains a high degree of rapport with fellow narcotics officers; HPD patrol, tactical and gang officers; federal agents; state and federal prosecutors and deputies of surrounding counties.

 

REACTIVE INVESTIGATOR OF THE YEAR Senior Police Officer Ricardo Johns

In 2016, Adult Sex Crimes Unit Crime Analysts reported a possible serial rapist based on the similar MOs, suspect and vehicle descriptions. Officer Ricardo Johns was assigned three cases believed to be related. In these cases, a suspect driving a red car picked up the victims, drove them to a residence, sexually assaulted them, then dropped them off at a different location. Relentless investigation provided him a partial license plate and suspect description. Officer Johns created a crime bulletin which was used to locate and identify the suspect. A photo lineup was presented to a victim who positively identified him. Ultimately six cases were linked to this suspect. He was charged with three Aggravated Sexual Assault charges.

 

PARTNERS OF THE YEAR – Senior Police Officer David Nieto and Senior Police Officer Michael Douglas

Officers David Nieto and Michael Douglas are assigned to the Vice Division Human Trafficking Unit and to the FBI Innocence Lost Task Force. Their mission is to investigate persons who are involved in the sex trafficking of minors and recover the victims, ensuring their safety so they can receive the services they need for rehabilitation. Officers Douglas and Nieto face numerous challenges investigating these types of cases, which are often very disturbing. They must demonstrate the utmost skill, patience, perseverance and tactfulness. Recovering these victims involves undercover work that is inherently dangerous as many of the traffickers are violent felons. In addition, they both serve as human trafficking expert witnesses and provide domestic juvenile sex trafficking trainings to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.

 

INVESTIGATIVE SUPERVISOR OF THE YEAR – Sergeant Ada Cruz

During an investigation, Sergeant Ada Cruz noticed a large number of complaints from citizens alleging that a storage facility and body shop was engaged in fraud. For countless years these suspects had taken advantage of customers by deceiving them into signing documents that not only obligated them to thousands of dollars in unnecessary charges, but also gave the business Power of Attorney to sign additional documents and insurance checks on their behalf. After a lengthy investigation, five suspects were arrested for Engaging in Organized Crime-Securing the Execution of Documents through Deception.

 

TECHNICAL SUPPORT EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR Police Officer Chanh Dau

The Auto Dealers Detail is responsible for licensing and regulating the automotive industry for the city of Houston. The Detail licenses approximately 8,000 businesses. The Detail was tasked with building and implementing a new system for licensing, inspecting and the auctioning of abandoned vehicles. Officer  Chanh Dau began with a systematic hands-on approach. He took inventory of all of the processes and computer programs utilized by the Detail, he worked hand-in-hand with the project team at Technology Services and recruited supervisors, officers, and civilians in order to provide a historical and logistical perspective to the project. With the new systems, Auto Dealers will be able to automate several of the previous labor intensive, manual processes.

 

CIVILIAN TECHNICAL EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR – Web Designer Juan Garza

Web Designer Juan Garza shares the responsibility of posting the HPD News Releases to the department’s website as soon as possible as well as posting the UCR Crime Statistics. He assisted with the creation of the Officer Involved Shooting page for the website and updates the page as soon as Homicide can provide the information. He shares his graphic design skills with various commands/division throughout the department. Mr. Garza set up the Body Worn Camera Page, assisted with the new design for HPD Annual Report, created artwork for the Turn Around Don’t Drown, Badges and Bears, Comida Food Drive Banners and Town Hall Posters.

 

CIVILIAN ADMINISTRATIVE /PARA-PROFESSIONAL EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR – Customer Service Cashier Maricela Puentes

The Auto Dealers Detail is responsible for licensing and regulating the automotive industry for the city of Houston. In 2016 the detail licensed approximately 8,000 businesses and processed over 10,000 license transactions. A detail was tasked with building and implementing a new licensing application. Customer Service Cashier Maricela Puentes played a big role in the success of its implementation. Ms. Puentes worked hand in hand with programmers to define all the processes required to perform the license function. Ms. Puentes spent hours testing the program to identify problems and suggestions to improve its efficiency.

 

 

CIVILIAN PROFESSIONAL EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR – Staff Analyst Carla Manuel

Vice Division Staff Analyst Carla Manuel has the ability to foresee future need and develop courses of actions to solve complex divisional problems. She and Captain Dan Harris were instrumental in creating a strategy to disrupt a prostitution problem on Bissonnet. Since September 2016 Vice arrested over 260 sex buyers and seller, yielding over 280 charges. Ms. Manuel started Vice Division’s first open source intelligence training program. In January 2016, she brought to Houston Open Source Intelligence Instructor Michael Bazzell. Almost 300 personnel from HPD, agents and investigators from federal, state and local agencies trained on Mr. Bazzell’s tactics.

 

CIVILIAN SUPERVISOR OF THE YEAR – Evidence Technician Supervisor Kerry Palmer

Evidence Technician Supervisor Kerry Palmer has served the department for 27 years in a variety of positions in the Property Division. He has tremendous knowledge and skills in all facets of evidence and property intake, storage, release and disposition. Maintaining accountability of all evidentiary items and found property under the control of the HPD is the primary function of the division which worked very hard to earn and retain the coveted ISO 9001:2008 certification for outstanding customer service. Mr. Palmer’s efforts were instrumental in achieving this goal.

 

ADMINISTRATIVE CLASSIFIED EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR – Sergeant Leaot Villarreal

Sergeant Leaot Villarreal is assigned to the Transfers, Allocations, and Promotions Unit with the responsibility for all transfers and promotions within the department. As the resident expert on all the intricate details involved in the process, Sergeant Villarreal’s expertise is relied on by HPD managers to ensure the procedure is administered fairly and within policy. She handles all issues with the utmost professionalism, care, honesty, and does her very best to achieve a positive resolution which benefits both the officers and the department.

 

MID-MANAGER OF THE YEAR – Lieutenant Michelle Chavez

Lieutenant Michelle Chavez serves in Special Operation Division as the Administrative Lieutenant as well as leading the Special Events and Catastrophic Planning Units. Special Operations is responsible for the planning and management of major events in the city of Houston. This responsibility can be daunting as the successful planning, coordination, and management of some of the events can take months or even years and requires the participation of hundreds of personnel from HPD and outside organizations. For Super Bowl 51 she was instrumental in planning the posting of personnel around the ten day Super Bowl Live celebration and the NFLX event both in and around the George R. Brown and NRG Stadium for the Super Bowl game. Her guidance, leadership, attention to detail, and care for personnel and the department are invaluable.

 

CIVILIAN MANAGER OF THE YEAR – Police Administrator Francisco Rodriguez

Police Administrator Francisco Rodriguez’ is assigned to Budget and Finance and is responsible for managing high risk procurements, reconciling financials for day-to-day transactions and serving as lead negotiator for purchase contracts. Mr. Rodriguez took the initiative in 2016 to begin a leadership training program for his staff and set aside monthly two hour sessions to personally teach the class. As the training sessions progressed, other units in Budget and Finance and employees from other divisions participated. Mr. Rodriguez’ mentorship has proven successful with his staff and other members of the department.

 

MANAGER OF THE YEAR – Assistant Chief Wendy Baimbridge

In 2016 Captain Wendy Baimbridge was assigned to the Mental Health Division and formulated a plan to add two new programs to the division. She began with the Crisis Call Diversion program, focusing her attention on the number of calls officers were receiving that needed handling by a mental health expert. They identified approximately 9,000 non-emergency mental health related calls and developed a plan to place crisis hotline personnel in the Houston Emergency Center to take these calls rather than dispatching a patrol unit. After Captain Baimbridge became aware of the increase of older adults and the pervasive crimes against them, she and SPO Doug Anders began planning for the Senior Justice Assessment Center. The purpose of the program is to prevent and combat the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of at-risk older adults in our community.

 

1st Lifetime Achievement Award

RECENTLY RETIRED EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT CHIEF GEORGE BUENIK

Executive Assistant Chief George Buenik proudly served the Houston Police Department over 34 years before retiring in March of 2017. While commander of Central Patrol Division, he received a Chief of Police Commendation for developing a strategy to deal with aggravated assaults against members of the gay community.  After transferring to Juvenile Division he coordinated the implementation of the Technology to Recover Abducted Kids (TRAK) flyer system as well as developing and co-authoring the Houston Regional Amber Alert Plan. While captain of the Special Operations Division he planned and organized police services for all major events including the 2004 Super Bowl. He was promoted to Assistant Chief in 2004 and was promoted to Executive Assistant Chief in 2014. Chief Buenik was designated Chairman of the 2017 Houston Super Bowl Public Safety Committee with responsibility for planning, developing and coordinating all local, state and federal resources for police and security operations for Super Bowl 51.

 

2nd Lifetime Achievement Award

RECENTLY RETIRED OFFICER JAIME GIRALDO

Officer Jaime Giraldo began his career in 1990. While assigned to the Marshal Division he participated in the multi-agency task force during city wide warrant round ups. He was a member of the Honor Guard representing the city at special events. He also joined the Special Response Group and became a member of the Crowd Disbursement Team “Hard Team” and became an instructor within the unit. He trained new SRG and Hard Team members in chemical munitions, crowd disbursement and techniques and material related to their mission. Officer Giraldo’s dedication and devotion to the citizens of Houston led him to the Mental Health Division, working with the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT). Toward the end of his career, Officer Giraldo helped develop a HOT Team Homeless Identification letter that has helped hundreds of people get off the streets.

 

3rd Lifetime Achievement Award

OFFICER DAVID WHILHITE

Officer David Wilhite joined the Houston Police Department in 1980, working mandatory rotations in the Traffic/Accident and Jail Divisions. He worked Traffic/Accident Division for 10 years then transferred to SWAT where he served as an assault team member, a sniper and an armorer. In 1997, he transferred to the Special Operations Division SRG where he was instrumental in developing training principals that are still followed today. Officer Wilhite remains involved in training, providing logistical assistance. In 2000, he transferred back to the Tactical Operations Division, Bomb Squad. He completed the United States Army Ordnance Missile and Munitions Hazardous Devices School. Officer Wilhite’s willingness to share his knowledge and mentor all first responders is remarkable. His desire is to train and educate others so they can improve their safety, knowledge and abilities with the final results being they go home safe and sound.