Officer Darrin Rafferty pins a distinguished service medal on Officer Susan Lee at the Berkeley Police Association Awards ceremony on May 3, 21012. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

The Berkeley Police Association honored seven Berkeley police officers for their outstanding service to the community in an awards ceremony on May 3 at Freight & Salvage.

The officers were honored for a variety of actions, including chasing down and apprehending a murder suspect, providing life-saving CPR and other medical treatment, and spearheading a program to help police officers deal with stress from the difficult demands of the job.

“We honor today those officers whose extraordinary work and heroic actions distinguish them from an already outstanding group of officers,” Said Officer Darrin Rafferty, the secretary of the Berkeley Police Association.

The awards ceremony started 30 years ago, he said. The last time awards were handed out was in 2007.

Those honored include:

Officer Susan Lee – Distinguished Service Award
Lee responded to reports of multiple gunshots near the intersection of Allston and 10th on May 16, 2009 around 6:30 pm. During the commotion, Lee spotted the suspects’ vehicle fleeing south at a high rate of speed. Lee pursued the car through Berkeley and Oakland, where the suspects’ car collided with another car near Children’s Hospital, killing a motorist and a pedestrian.
Two of the four suspects fled from the car. The driver attempted to escape, but Lee drove her police car up against the driver’s door to prevent him from exiting. The driver then fled from the passenger side of the car. Lee chased and detained him. Another suspect in the car was also detained. Two loaded assault rifles were found in the car. “The murderers would not have been brought to justice if Officer Lee had not taken the steps to locate, pursue the vehicle, and detain its occupants in the midst of a chaotic and tragic evening,” said Officer Tim Kaplan, the president of the BPA. “What she did that day was exceptional.”

Officer Christopher Waite – Lifesaving Award
On May 20, 2010 around 11 am, Officer Waite, a bicycle patrol officer, responded to a call of gunshots around 63rd St. and Adeline. When Waite arrived in the 1700 block of 63rd St., there were two victims, including one lying in the back of the car. His pulse was weak. While paramedics are usually the ones to offer medical assistance, Waite had recently been trained as a tactical medic. He had brought his medical bag with him on the call.  Waite discovered that two bullets had severed an artery in the man’s thigh and he was bleeding profusely. Waite applied a tourniquet to stanch the flow of blood. The victim survived his wounds. “Without Officer Waite’s training, knowledge, tools and perseverance, this gunshot victim would undoubtedly have perished,” said Captain Erik Upson.”This person owes his life to Officer Waite.”

Officer Jeff Shannon – Exceptional Service Award
Officer Shannon was honored for spearheading the efforts of the Berkeley police to “ensure that our members are better served in dealing with immediate and long-term stressors that we face on a regular basis.” Shannon, who has a master’s degree in clinical psychology, has spent many hours counseling Berkeley officers after they have been involved in critical incidents. He was the catalyst for creating the Critical Incident Stress Debriefings that are now routinely conducted after officers go through traumatic events such as suicides, SIDS, deaths and officer-involved shootings. Shannon also helped develop a Crisis Intervention Team. “Officer Shannon’s commitment to the mental health and well being of our officers is noble,” said Sgt. Emily Murphy, the vice-president of the BPA.

Sgt. Andrew Rateaver – Distinguished Service Award
Sgt. Rateaver responded to reports of citizen on the ground in the area of San Pablo Avenue and Delaware Street on Sept. 11, 2011. The man had been on the ground for awhile and people had been walking around him because he looked disheveled and possibly homeless. Sgt. Rateaver tried to wake the man up, but when he did not respond, the sergeant began CPR until the fire department arrived. He then continued to compress the man’s chest. The man was taken to the hospital, where he died a few days later. He was not homeless, but a local resident. “Sgt. Rateaver’s actions are notable in this situation because he, in our collective experience as police officers, could have carried on with his day as if the person was a homeless person lying on the ground,” said Officer Kaplan. It would have been easy for anyone to dismiss this person while thinking ‘it’s a homeless person with a drug problem’ or wondering ‘why am I wasting my time on this?’ This situation should be a training lesson for us all. Things are not always what they seem to be… Despite the man’s death, there is no doubt that Sgt. Rateaver’s actions that day were above and beyond the call of duty.”

Sgt. Emily Murphy and Officer Darrin Rafferty pin awards on officers Andre Bell-Watkins, Benjamin Phelps, and Thomas Syto. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Officer Andre Bell-Watkins, Officer Benjamin Phelps, and Officer Thomas Syto – Distinguished Service Award.
The three officers responded to a call of a man choking in a house on Greenwood Commons on March 17, 2012. When Phelps arrived, he was directed to a man lying on the kitchen floor. His skin was blue and his eyes were bloodshot. He was gasping for air. Phelps attempted to dislodge the material blocking the man’s airway. It was mushy, however, and the Heimlich maneuver was not effective. Syto then attempted to clear the man’s airway and continued with chest compressions after the fire department took over. Bell-Watkins then arrived and cleared the furniture out of the room so that fire and police officials had more room in which to work. He was prepared to take over chest compressions when the fire department succeeded in removing the food blocking the victim’s air passage. The man was rushed to the hospital, but was removed from life support on March 23. The guests at the party said that the officers were “amazing” and “comforting.” “With their actions, Officer Bell-Watkins, Phelps, and Syto epitomize the professionalism and dedication of our members,” said Sgt. Murphy.

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...