HPD support group’s Officer of the Year Award presented to Sgt. Melissa Holbrook

Tom Kennedy

The Houston Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association has presented its annual award for excellence HPD Sgt. Melissa Holbrook in recognition of her tireless efforts to train every officer about the best ways and means of interviewing sexual assault and domestic violence victims.

The Lynn B. Clooney Memorial Award, named for a founding member of the association, is presented each spring to the HPD “officer of the year” who is selected from nominations submitted by commanding officers of the department. Final selection is made by the alumni board. The first award was presented in 1994.

The award to Sgt. Holbrook was presented at the May HPOU general membership meeting.

In presenting the award to Holbrook, the subject of a feature story in the May edition of the Badge & Gun, alumni official Andrea Schmauss pointed out that the U. S. Department of Justice issued new guidelines requiring police departments in America to “eliminate gender bias in investigating sexual assaults and domestic violence cases.

“The DOJ urged departments to treat all victims with respect and employ interviewing tactics that encourage a victim to participate and provide facts about that incident,” Schmauss said.

The burden for the development and implementation of the appropriate four-hour course entitled “Making Sense of Victims Behaviors: The Neurobiology of Trauma” fell upon Sgt. Holbrook and Lisa Levine of the Houston Area Women’s Center.

Holbrook and Levine have thus far taught almost two of every five HPD officers the “neurobiology of trauma as it relates to victims of crimes and the particular applications in law enforcement.”

Schmauss highlighted Holbrook’s dedication to the use of the “an outstanding presentation that included PowerPoint, videos and interactive discussions.”

“Additionally,” presenter Schmauss said, “when instructing the training, she creates a positive environment for learning including the vast personal expertise and hands on investigative knowledge. The training has been recognized in the Houston Chronicle and with the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

“This great sergeant has received several commendations regarding the content of the training along with how needed and well-executed it was presented. She will be training over 5,000 sworn officers with HPD.

“Also, she will be providing this important training to the surrounding law enforcement agencies in a real effort to make a positive impact on the interviews of victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.”

Schmauss described the sergeant who works in the Special Victims Division, Family Violence Unit, as “tirelessly dedicated to complete normal duties and at the same time produce an extremely high quality, timely, thought-provoking lesson plan.

“Melissa is extremely passionate about making a positive impact regarding the investigation of sexual assault and domestic violence. She is an outstanding trainer of law enforcement, well respected and positively representing HPD and I commend her for all the outstanding efforts.

“Her passion and dedication as displayed by the training presentations truly deserve to be with this award.”

Schmauss said she was quoting from the nomination letter sent by a lieutenant from the Family Violence Unit.

Lynn B. Clooney was a founding member of the Houston Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association.  Lynn, along with 20 other citizens graduated from Citizens Police Academy Class One. She was inspired by the officers who taught the classes, and felt it was necessary to form an alumni association to assist police officers.

The association was formed in 1989, and received its state charter in 1992.  Lynn’s community involvement as Chairman of her Positive Interaction Program (PIP) group and as President of her Homeowners Association was the stepping stone to her attending the Houston Citizens Police Academy Class.

According to history recited by Schmauss, a homeowners association wanted its neighborhood cleaned up, but no one wanted to get involved.  Through Lynn’s perseverance, and work with the HPD, the small group was successful in reclaiming Walter Ramus Park.

Lynn served the alumni in several capacities.  She was elected to serve on the board of directors as Vice President, and then elected President in 1992.  Lynn’s goals and vision for the alumni were basic – support the HPD in growth, pay raises and creating a positive perception of the department. Lynn tried to live her life focused on credibility and accountability. It was her wish that everyone do the same.

“Lynn was loved by those who worked with her and those fortunate enough to have known her,” Schmauss said. “Although Lynn is no longer with us, it is the focus of the alumni to continue her ideology and present an award in her memory to the outstanding HPD Officer of the Year.”