8th Annual Police Week Heroes Award Winners

Shelly Molina, Photos by Matt Fowler

INSTRUCTOR OF THE YEARSergeant Melissa Holbrook

Sergeant Melissa Holbrook trains for the department and locally within the community in various fields including intimate partner violence, child abuse and sexual assault and is the liaison to the Houston Area Women’s Center. Sergeant Holbrook is a certified TCOLE Instructor and a Sexual Assault Family Violence Investigator Course Instructor. She has also taught for Texas Council on Family Violence and the Stalking Resource Center. Sergeant Holbrook has instructed “Making Sense of Victims Behaviors: The Neurobiology of Trauma” for the department and to local law enforcement agencies. Currently she teaches the 2018-2019 Mandatory Domestic Violence/Human Trafficking.

 

FTO OF THE YEAROfficer Robert Segura

Officer Robert Segura has been an FTI for the second time for approximately three years. During 2018 he trained seven probationary police officers and volunteered to re-orient an officer who had been assigned to the Jail for five years. Officer Segura is an exceptional FTI who cares about exposing young PPOs to all aspects of police work. Furthermore, Officer Segura exposes PPOs to self-initiated investigations. On July 4, 2018, Officer Segura and his PPO volunteered to address the discharge of fireworks in their beat. As they were patrolling, they heard gunshots. Making the block they saw a man and woman standing inside a fenced yard. Following up, Officer Segura saw multiple spent casings that appeared to be fresh in the yard. Officer Segura then showed his PPO the process of preparing a probable cause statement and obtaining a search warrant. Officer Segura expects his trainees to initiate a call and work the call from start to finish.

 

PATROL OFFICER OF THE YEAROfficer Brandon Stephens

Officer Brandon Stephens is dedicated to every call he runs and exhibits outstanding investigative ability, work performance, dedication to excellence and the desire to make a difference in the community. Officer Stephens’ relentless efforts include working well over his shift on a regular basis to completely process his latest arrest. In 2018, Officer Stephens filed 81 charges, getting violent offenders off the streets. Officer Stephens has been on the Northeast Division Productivity Report and Top Performers on calls for service, incident reports and Misdemeanor and Felony arrests almost every month in 2018.

 

PATROL OFFICER OF THE YEAROfficer Dean Nguyen

Officer Dean Nguyen is a seventeen year veteran on the department with vast patrol and investigative experience and leads by example on a daily basis. Officer Nguyen is always willing to be primary on any patrol call and frequently self-initiates his patrol activity by performing traffic stops or looking for suspicious persons. Every month during 2018, Officer Nguyen was the most productive evening shift patrol officer with seventeen felony arrests, 132 misdemeanor arrests and he filed 79 charges. On top of that he made 395 traffic stops and issued 947 citations.

 

PATROL SUPERVISOR OF THE YEARSergeant Andrew Mustain

Sergeant Andrew Mustain has proven his dedication to the profession of law-enforcement by actively identifying crimes in progress and arresting perpetrators. He seeks to proactively improve quality of life issues for southwest Houston residents though self-initiated activities and his hands-on approach inspires Southwest Division officers to constantly improve their performance. Sergeant Mustain’s impressive statistics, encompassing the period between January 1, through December 31, 2018, include the following arrests and contraband seized; 40 total charges filed, 29 Felony charges filed, 47 total suspects arrested, over $1000 in cash seized, 11 guns seized and over 300 grams of illicit narcotics tagged as evidence. Undoubtedly, such an impressive display of law-enforcement tactics positively contributed to the substantial decreases in Part 1 Violent and Non-violent crimes in both 15 and 16 Districts for 2018.

 

SUPPORT SERVICES EMPLOYEE OF THE YEARSr. Police Telecommunicator Nicole O’Dell

In 2018, Sr. Police Telecommunicator Nicole O’Dell trained nine trainees and took on extra work training four additional trainees for other trainers during their absences. In 2018, Ms. Odell also completed evaluations for seven trainees. Ms. O’Dell possesses a strong work ethic and handles her daily responsibilities operating a mic and dispatching calls in addition to training and evaluating. Officer safety is priority one for Ms. O’Dell.  If a trainee needs additional assistance Ms. O’Dell offers training after regular shift hours to help develop their skills. Dispatching is a very difficult task that takes months of training and practice and many years of experience to do very well. It is hard to find workers with the passion, drive and character that Ms. O’Dell has and exhibits every day.

 

TACTICAL OFFICER OF THE YEAROfficer Shane Krantz

Officer Shane Krantz has devoted countless hours on and off-duty researching Burglary of Motor Vehicle trends and the suspects who commit these crimes. He routinely assumes the role of case agent during BMV operations and is a natural leader in the Crime Suppression Team. New officers coming into the squad often look to him for guidance and advice while learning the complex task of combating BMVs. Not only does Officer Krantz excel at being a tactical officer, he also builds relationships with the community. He built a lasting relationship with a National Insurance Crime Bureau agent, getting an undercover vehicle donated for the team to use while conducting BMV operations. The agent was ecstatic with the number of suspects that were arrested and charged using this vehicle. The agent is currently working with Officer Krantz to get another vehicle donated to the squad to assist with taking these criminals off the street.

 

SPECIALIZED OFFICER OF THE YEARSergeant Patrick Morrissey

Sergeant Patrick Morrissey, then officer, from the Environmental Investigations Unit, Major Offenders Division, serves on the environmental boards of two law enforcement organizations. He is actively involved with the International Association of Chiefs of Police where he serves on the environmental crime panel, which provides environmental policy recommendations to police departments across the nation and the world. Sergeant Morrissey is also involved with the Texas Environmental Law Enforcement Association (TELEA) where he serves on the board of directors and organizes training for numerous state agencies. In April 2018 Sergeant Morrissey organized the annual TELEA training conference and provided training and instruction to over 100 detectives and regulators from across the state. Sergeant Morrissey has been instrumental in obtaining grants for the EIU, securing over $200,000 in grants since 2016. Sergeant Morrissey has set precedents in Environmental Enforcement in Harris County and across the nation as a result of his efforts in the EIU.

 

CIT OFFICER OF THE YEAROfficer Robert Hatfield

Officer Robert Hatfield and Clinician Andrea Battle responded to a call involving a woman who had been reported missing and possibly having a mental health crisis. She had a history of Bipolar Disorder and not taking her medications. Officer Hatfield learned that the woman had expressed suicidal thoughts, was writing on the walls and giving away her possessions. Although Officer Hatfield did not locate the woman at first, he made contact during a follow-up investigation and assessed her condition. She was psychotic and agitated and attempted to run away, however Officer Hatfield was able to secure her in the police vehicle. The woman continued to be combative while being transported to NPC. Officer Hatfield safely completed the transport and admitted her on an Emergency Detention Order without injury.   

 

DRT/CSO OF THE YEAROfficer Matthew Simon

Officer Matthew Simon serves as a DRT and Community Service officer, tackling issues affecting the residents of the downtown district. To increase safety he provides training to the Downtown Management District’s (DMD) public safety guides on using de-escalation techniques when dealing with the homeless and those under the influence. Officer Simon has taken the initiative to coordinate the efforts of the Downtown Division’s DRT in addressing community issues. Officer Simon coordinates enforcement efforts, as well as helping the homeless find shelter on a weekly basis. He assists the DMD cleaning crew with the weekly clean ups of the Pierce and Chartres encampments which are required to prevent disease due to the unsanitary conditions. Officer Simon volunteered to create and maintain the weekly encampment report with population numbers, tents, items stored in the city storage, citations issued and warnings given. This weekly report is sent to the Mayor and City prosecutor’s office to assist the homeless population as well as holding them accountable for citations they received.

 

SENIOR POLICE OFFICER OF THE YEAROfficer Michael Zientek

On April 10, 2018, Officer Michael Zientek learned through a call for service that a U-Haul storage facility had 43 of their storage rooms burglarized and began a three month investigation. Officer Zientek identified six storage facilities that had been burglarized involving an additional 60 storage units hit by the same two suspects in Harris and Montgomery Counties. He encountered countless obstacles in this investigation because many complainants were unaware that their storage lockers had been burglarized. Many of these complainants had been displaced by Hurricane Harvey and were now learning that their remaining possessions had been stolen. Officer Zientek selflessly placed the needs of the community and volunteered multiple Saturdays returning property. Over $100,000 in stolen articles were recovered, but more importantly, it was returned to the rightful owners. Both suspects were arrested and charged by Officer Zientek for Aggregated Felony Theft-Multiple Complainants and Burglary of a Building.

 

PROACTIVE INVESTIGATOR OF THE YEAROfficer Jorge Ortega Jr.

Officer Jorge Ortega is assigned to the Gang Division, FBI Multi-Agency Gang Task Force. This squad works both proactive and reactive cases targeting a transnational criminal organization. On May 4, 2018, a 14 year old girl was reported missing. Her case did not have many leads and remained unsolved. On August 22, 2018, Officer Ortega participated in a multiple-agency arrest operation. He learned that his target suspect was a juvenile being transported to an adult facility. Officer Ortega was able to redirect the transport to the juvenile facility. There he interviewed the violent gang member with little evidence to prove the case. Officer Ortega was able to make a connection by simply talking about a restaurant the suspect was familiar with. The suspect was so comfortable speaking with Officer Ortega that he not only confessed to the murder but told detectives how happy he was to kill a rival gang member. Just before the end of the interview, Officer Ortega noted a missing person case in which the suspect was also mentioned. The suspect turned to Officer Ortega and unreservedly confessed to her murder.

 

UNDERCOVER INVESTIGATOR OF THE YEAROfficer Wesley Jones

Officer Wesley Jones is assigned to the Human Trafficking Alliance (HTRA) Task Force which is composed of local, state, and federal law-enforcement agencies combined with victims’ services. Their mission is to identify victims of human trafficking, conduct proactive investigations, file charges and to ensure victims’ safety so they can be provided the services they need. Many of Officer Jones’ investigations involve juvenile victims who are forced into prostitution, pornography and other forms of sexual exploitation by traffickers through physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Officer Jones faces numerous challenges when investigating these types of cases. The victims rescued typically do not act like victims. Some victims believe that the trafficker is their boyfriend or protector and they are hesitant to provide information which can implicate the trafficker in a serious crime. In 2018 Officer Jones filed over 18 state and federal trafficking charges on nine different suspects and recovered over 40 women and children in these investigations.

 

REACTIVE INVESTIGATOR OF THE YEAROfficer David Yoon

Officer David Yoon was assigned a case with few suspect details. His background research led him to several related cases in which a similar suspect (with different names) was accused of sexual assaults of other children. Due to the age of the case, Officer Yoon had difficulty tracking down all the complainants. Officer Yoon created multiple photo spreads to show to complainants and witnesses who positively identified the suspect. The suspect was found to be a serial predator who had abused multiple children. After his interrogation, the suspect agreed to a polygraph examination but never showed up. The DA’s office accepted charges for Indecency with a Child. During the warrant execution it was discovered that the suspect was no longer living at his last known address. Officer Yoon reached out to Crime Stoppers and conducted a Press conference for this wanted suspect.  The suspect was arrested in Idaho as he was attempting to flee to Canada.

 

PARTNERS OF THE YEAROfficer John Stroble and Officer Michael Barrow Jr.

In February 2018, Officer John Stroble and Michael Barrow Jr. were assigned to the Homicide Division Murder Squad and teamed up as partners. During the course of the next eleven months the officers have shown that they can handle the challenges associated with investigating complicated murder cases along with their other assigned work such as kidnappings, suspicious deaths, aggravated assaults and suicides. During their tenure they have amassed an impressive 100% clearance rate on all Murders and Capital Murders assigned to them.

 

INVESTIGATIVE SUPERVISOR OF THE YEARSergeant Luis Menendez-Sierra

Sergeant Luis Menendez-Sierra is assigned to the Special Victims Division and serves as the commander over the Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. He oversees the daily operations of 67 police agencies who have partnered with the Task Force. From August 22 to August 24, 2018, Sergeant Menendez-Sierra coordinated a three day online chat operation utilizing officers from the Houston Police Internet Crimes Against Children and the Harris County Precinct One Constables Office. Individuals targeted during this operation were committed to soliciting and having sexual intercourse with a child. Sergeant Menendez-Sierra worked tirelessly to see that the operation was a huge success. As a result a total of 13 child predators were arrested and taken off the streets. In addition, Sergeant Menendez-Sierra volunteers to teach Internet Safety to parents so they can learn about the dangers on the internet and chat rooms their children may be visiting.

 

TECHNICAL SUPPORT EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAROfficer Aaron Schumann

Officer Aaron Schumann is the Technology Coordinator for the Robbery Division. He has extensive computer experience and maintains the Interview Tracker, Line-up rooms and all divisional databases. Officer Schumann is responsible for deployment of all computers, monitors, and all technological equipment and software. This position requires extensive knowledge gained only from practical application and user level experience with HPD computer systems and programs. Officer Schumann has been vital in the opening of the Joint Processing Center. He was solely responsible for the creation of the line-up and interview rooms for both HPD and Harris County. Officer Schumann has worked exclusively and extensively with the vendor to ensure the proper and effective operation of all cameras and equipment. He trained County personnel in the use of the lineup and interview rooms and coordinated with the County and HPD to effectively utilize interview tracker.

 

CIVILIAN TECHNICAL EMPLOYEE OF THE YEARTechnical Hardware Analyst III John Guynn

Technical Hardware Analyst III John Guynn is responsible for troubleshooting issues that walk-in customers may have with computers, electronic ticket writers, fingerprint readers, Video Systems, etc. In 2018 Mr. Guynn was assigned to test a new technology being considered by HPD for mobile computer systems. He was given a Cradlepoint Mobile Router to replace an internal Verizon Network Air Card in an HPD GETAC Computer System. Without any additional training, Mr. Guynn was able to work with Verizon and Cradlepoint to activate the device and perform tests necessary to verify if it would work for multi-point communications. Mr. Guynn verified that all HPD Mobile Applications worked properly through the new interface and was instrumental in identifying a problem with managing devices such as the Cradlepoint across the current Verizon/HPD Network design. This led to HPD requesting to move to the new Verizon Public Safety Layer communications infrastructure that will allow HPD more flexibility and avenues for expanded communications in future years.

 

ADMINISTRATIVE PARA/PROFESSIONAL EMPLOYEE OF THE YEARSOA Judy Tristan

Senior Office Assistant Judy Tristan has been a part of Recruiting Division since its inception in 2014. Ms. Tristan has taken the position of SOA and turned it into a critical force multiplier. Thanks to her efforts, there is an extra layer of accountability and tracking of applicant files as they reach the commander’s office for review. In 2018, that amounted to almost 400 cadet files tracked and processed in addition to her regular duties. She keeps up with approvals and coordinates communications with key partners in other divisions. While the hiring process primarily involves Recruiting Division, there are critical junctures that require communication with Training Division, Uniform Supply and others. Ms. Tristan’s work is always completed ahead of schedule and completed to the highest standards. Without her diligence and willingness to take on extra duties, a significant amount of work would fall on other employees. Ms. Tristan’s contributions to the division are appreciated every day.

 

CIVILIAN SUPERVISOR OF THE YEARPolice Telecommunicator Supervisor Irma Munoz

Police Telecommunicator Supervisor Irma Munoz wears many hats at ECD. She is a dayshift supervisor that operates Watch Command and assists Dispatchers on the call floor if needed. When a high stress situation occurs, such as an officer involved shooting, she steps in without hesitation. Ms. Munoz operates dispatch mics whenever they are shorthanded. She also helps in the Dispatch training program by assisting with new material and ideas to aid trainees as they go through the program. Ms. Munoz’ leadership and supervision are a great asset, not only to ECD but to every patrol district that she assists by supervising the dayshift dispatchers.

 

ADMINISTRATIVE CLASSIFIED EMPLOYEE OF THE YEARSgt. Michael Gunter

Sergeant Michael Gunter is the Call Analysis and Training Sergeant for ECD. As the Call Analysis sergeant he generates various monthly reports and is known for his attention to detail and great skills in analyzing raw data to convert it into useful informative reports. In addition to his regular duties, Sergeant Gunter is often called upon by the Executive Staff and Commanders requesting special reports. In 2018, he prepared approximately 46 special reports. As the training sergeant, Sergeant Gunter is dedicated to the Senior Police Telecommunicator Training Program which is modeled after the Field Training Program. He keeps meticulous training documentation for each dispatch trainee for submission to the Training Division and then to TCOLE for licensing purposes. He holds quarterly meetings with the dispatch trainers to maintain an open line of communication and gathers the trainers input on improving the program.

 

MID-MANAGER OF THE YEARLt. Timothy Trometer

In the spring of 2018, Lieutenant Timothy Trometer worked with Commander Michael Faulhaber, Vice Division and the Harris County Attorney’s Office to address the prostitution problem negatively impacting the citizens that live and work along the Bissonnet Corridor. The initiative was unique in its approach and required much planning and preparation for the Civil Injunction that would be filed. A OneNote database was created to identify the prostitutes, johns and pimps that were frequent offenders in the Bissonnet Corridor.  This effort continued during the summer and, with the intelligence gathered, work quickly began on a new initiative for the same area that would work interactively with the goals of the civil injunction. Lieutenant Trometer assisted with the development of Human Trafficking guides for victims and HPD officers conducting investigations and a Resource Guide to be provide to sellers that need assistance to get out of the prostitution life style. Lieutenant Trometer’s role throughout this initiative was invaluable and instrumental to its success.

 

CIVILIAN MANAGER OF THE YEARInformation Systems Administrator Carlos Salas

Information Systems Administrator Carlos Salas is an exceptional manager and an experienced IT professional. He manages a team of 25 programming professionals who are responsible not only for new development, but for the performance of over 170 existing custom HPD applications. In spite of a 30% shortfall in personnel, his team completed some amazing tasks during 2018, all of which lighten the administrative load on our officers, provide more intelligence information faster and enhance the ability for systems to communicate with each other. He embraced the new process put in place to align the development of new applications more closely to the department’s business needs and requirements. The new process also prioritizes initiatives, so the most important projects are developed first. Mr. Salas also created standards for programmers to follow that established rules and regulations that reduce the length of time to create an application, reduce the number of programming errors, reduce the complexity of troubleshooting any remaining errors, and provide standardization enhancing the user experience. He saved the department over $500,000 by creating the interface between RMS and the new management system for the Joint Processing Center by doing it himself.

 

MANAGER OF THE YEARCommander Belinda Null

In the beginning of 2018, Southwest Division was on trajectory for the largest increase in violent crime in our city. However, under the supervision and leadership of Commander Belinda Null, the Southwest Division ended 2018 with the largest decrease in Part I crimes. The significant decrease was a result of increased cooperation and communication between shifts, specialized units, and the Crime Suppression Team. Commander Null required shift commanders to utilize crime analysis to identify and address crime issues on their respective shifts. Commander Null’s ability to prioritize, focus and initiate immediate steps to resolve an issue are second to none. More so she continually strives to increase morale among her officers.  She rewards productive officers by temporarily taking them from the calls for service loop to work proactively on crime issues in their area.  This was critical in the reduction of crime on night shift.  Commander Null has exhibited outstanding leadership ability and personal initiative. Her tireless dedication has resulted in a positive affect for the Southwest community, her officers, and the department.

 

PROFESSIONAL EMPLOYEE OF THE YEARCounselor Jennifer Baker

Counselor Jennifer Baker has been a tireless advocate for the continued development and growth of the Victim Services Unit. Ms. Baker works as a counselor at the Montrose Storefront, where she assists men and women in need of assistance to access various social services and other available resources. Lieutenant Julie Pleasant began inquiring about grant opportunities to grow the Victim Services Unit and was told about Ms. Baker. Though grant writing was not in Ms. Baker’s scope of work, she quickly became indispensable to the grant-seeking efforts. The work she accomplished over the last year resulted not just in a grant application, but in an award of $1.1 million that will shape the future of VSU through additional staffing, committed resources for community education and a culture shift to victim-centered, trauma-informed services for the victims of the city of Houston.

 

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARDOfficer Norberto Ramon (Posthumously)

Officer Norberto Ramon joined the Houston Police Department on August 30, 1993, as a member of Cadet Class 155. For fifteen years Officer Ramon served as a patrol officer, transferring on April 4, 2009, to Traffic Enforcement to work with the DWI Task Force. After several years of DWI enforcement, Officer Ramon transferred to the Radar Task Force, serving as a Traffic Enforcement Officer. In March 2016, Officer Ramon was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer but still maintained a great work ethic, with devotion and dedication to the department. During Hurricane Harvey in August of 2017, Officer Ramon was unable to report to the Traffic Enforcement Division and followed policy by reporting to the nearest station which was the Lake Patrol Unit. Their rescue operation resulted in lasting and meaningful differences in the lives of over 1,500 citizens. Over the course of twenty-five years Officer Ramon exemplified the highest standards of service to the department by virtue of diligence, dedication and character. Officer Ramon earned the Officer of the Month from the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial Fund for his actions and dedication during Hurricane Harvey. Sadly on June 15, 2018, Officer Ramon lost his battle with cancer and passed away.

 

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARDOfficer Charles Stark

On December 1, 1990, Officer Charles Starks joined the Houston Police Department. Officer Starks began at North Patrol in 1990, working in patrol, gang unit and the bicycle tactical unit. In 2002, Officer Starks transferred to the Traffic Enforcement Division where he has worked to make the streets of Houston safer from the front seat of a radar car by issuing citations on the busy freeways. Incidents that he has initiated include; the rescue of children who were being assaulted, large narcotics seizures, large US currency seizures and thousands of felony and misdemeanor arrests. Officer Starks has filed over 3000 charges and since 2011 has written 15,544 citations to include 19,385 violations. Officer Starks is a TCOLE and Drug Interdiction Assistance Program certified Instructor. As part of the courses he teaches, he creates and designs the curriculum for each class he instructs and is very passionate about the material he teaches. He was instrumental in creating an x-ray image database for HIDTA, a federal agency committed to enforcing controlled substance laws and regulations. The State of Texas has called for his assistance to create new policy and procedures regarding fictitious Texas temporary license plates. The department utilizes his skills to teach current and new officers in a variety of different skills.

 

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARDSergeant Paul Weido (Posthumously)

On October 5, 1989, Sergeant Paul Weido joined the Houston Police Department and embarked on a career that spanned 29 years. Sergeant Weido started his career working at Westside Division for six years patrolling the city’s westside community. Sergeant Weido then transferred to Narcotics Division where he served for over eleven years. Sergeant Weido promoted to the rank of sergeant on November 8, 2007, and worked the remainder of his career on patrol with Westside Division being his last assignment. Leading by example and from the front and always taking the opportunity to teach and mentor the members of the teams he was a part of was his style and how he served. Sgt. Weido received numerous letters of commendations and expressions of appreciation from citizens, employees, supervisors and Mayor Bill White. He was awarded 8 Life Saving Awards, 3 Hostile Engagement Awards, 2 Meritorious Service Awards, was a 2017 Police Week Award Finalist and was the 2014 Police Week Patrol Supervisor of the Year. On December 11, 2018, Sergeant Paul Weido passed away. The Weido family, the Houston Police Department and the citizens of Houston lost a very special person when he passed away. At his funeral services he was honored to have the HPD Life Saving Award named after him.