Honors come for courage in line of duty, selfless actions, response during blizzard
Deputies who ran into burning buildings, an officer who chased a shooter while off-duty and another whose productivity leads the entire department – even as he enters his 33rd year of work – are among those set to be honored at this year’s Cook County Sheriff’s Employee Awards and Recognition Ceremony, Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced today.
The event, hosted by Roe Conn of WLS-AM, is set to take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Brookfield Zoo’s Discovery Center, 3300 Golf Road in Brookfield.
Family and friends of 66 employees and four citizens are set to join those being recognized. This marks the second annual event where Dart has combined all department honors for one ceremony – including recognition of all promotions and military service, along with awards for the office’s top humanitarian effort, awards of valor and top patrol officers.
The ceremony’s most prestigious honor is the Timothy Kaufmann Distinguished Career Service, an award named after the former Cook County Sheriff’s Police Officer who died in 2008 and which is given to someone who has shown an unmatched dedication to law enforcement, along with the same selfless dignity and honor that Kaufmann demonstrated.
This year’s winner, Officer Ronald Rovner, has worked as a correctional officer at the jail, courthouse deputy, and police officer during his 33-year career. Even after three decades of service, he continues to show an incredible work ethic and dedication to keeping our streets safe, issuing nearly 11,000 citations and making nearly 600 arrests in the last two years.
Also set for special recognition is Deputy Peter Cozzi, who is the recipient of this year’s Humanitarian Award. Meeting the award’s standards of showing kindness, compassion or benevolence which has enriched the lives of others, Cozzi has spent the last 20 years voluntarily counseling those suffering from alcoholism – some of them his own colleagues. Doing his work anonymously, he has helped countless people through the disease.
Awards of Valor will be given to those deputies and officers who have performed acts of heroism and bravery, meeting and exceeding the highest standards in law enforcement.
Recipients of that prestigious honor are:
• Chief James McArdle and Deputy Quentin Bradshaw: While conducting an eviction, they entered a residence to find an injured man who had just shot himself, but was still alive, had his gun and was attempting to shoot himself again. They were able to safely disarm him and save the man’s life.
• Lt. Angelo Zafaris: While driving to his job in the Department of Corrections at Cook County Jail, Lt. Zafiris noticed a vehicle on fire and a passenger inside attempting to stop the fire from there. He helped the man out just before the vehicle exploded.
• Investigators Ronald Clemons and Carl Mercherson. While out on the streets making their rounds for electronic monitoring checks, they heard gunshots nearby. They pursued and found two groups firing at each other. They took control of the scene and held three people until Chicago police arrived to take them into custody.
• Investigator Trois Shavers. While making an electronic monitoring check in Dolton, he saw smoke coming from a house and ran inside, helping three people out.
• Investigator Leone Ugarte. While off-duty, the officer heard gunshots and, with assistance of an off-duty CPD officer, gave chase to a suspect, while also recovering the handgun used in a shooting.
• Lt. Sean Gleason, Sgt. Nathan Camer, Det. David Cammack, Investigator Richard Velasquez. As members of the Sheriff’s Hostage Barricade Terrorism Unit, their work was critical in ending a 12-hour standoff with an armed man in an oil refinery.
• Officers Gary Contreras, Larry Rivlin and Roger Valdez. The officers responded to a domestic incident involving a man with weapons. After several attempts to communicate the subject, he came at them with a weapon and, failing to stop him with a shield or Taser, were forced to fire a shot at him, after which he retreated and was taken into custody, later dying at a hospital.
• Deputies Edward Flory and David Soto. While serving a warrant, they saw a storefront on fire. They escorted four people out and continued looking for others until being overcome by smoke.
Sheriff Dart will also recognize the office’s top patrol officers, based on productivity, professionalism on the front lines, performance and representation of the office. Officers Joe Chirillo (Markham), Michael Dwyer (Markham), Michael Healy (Bridgeview), Brandon Hofgesang (Skokie), Henry Macugowski (Skokie), Adam Murphy (Skokie), Joseph Phillips (Markham), John Pradun (Skokie), Ronald Rovner (Rolling Meadows) and Dave Tuzim (Markham) are set to receive the first-time honor.
Sheriff Dart is also set to honor four employees with Exceptional Performance Awards for their impressive actions and commitment to public service during the February blizzard. Boot Camp Capt. Paul Pankiewicz, Pre-release Capt. Edward Byrne, Police Investigator Leone Ugarte and Corrections Sgt. Jack Farris will be honored on Wednesday.