Lopey said police officers are asked to be courageous, calm in the face of danger, scorn or ridicule and exercise self restraint in all situations. They must be honest in word and deed and exercise exemplary conduct on and off duty.

Siskiyou County is a special place, said Mount Shasta Area California Highway Patrol Commander Kyle Foster while speaking Saturday evening at the county’s Peace Officer Appreciation Dinner. Since moving to the area, he noticed there are “no lines and no boundaries” between the many law enforcement agencies, which all work together for the betterment of the collective community.

This was a sentiment echoed by Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey in his remarks before announcing several Peace Officer of the Year awards during a ceremony that was held at the Mount Shasta Community Building and sponsored by the Mount Shasta Elks Lodge #2333.

Lopey said police officers are asked to be courageous, calm in the face of danger, scorn or ridicule and exercise self restraint in all situations. They must be honest in word and deed and exercise exemplary conduct on and off duty.

“Peace officers must be officious and not permit personal feelings, prejudices, animosities or friendships to influence their decisions and are asked to lay down their lives for people they haven’t even met,” he said.

In 2018 nationwide, 150 peace officers were killed, including 52 in firearm related assaults, Lopey said. So far in 2019, 24 peace officers have been killed, including 11 deaths to gunfire.

“Causes for more violence ... are many but include poor economy, more violent offenders, proliferation of drugs and mental illness amongst more citizens, severe budget cuts and workforce reductions, as well as caustic political rhetoric and sensationalized news media coverage, which has polarized many communities and led to the diminished respect for the law enforcement profession and its courageous members,” said Lopey.

He also called attention to the families of law enforcement officers. “Without your sacrifices and lifetime of endurance, understanding, unconditional support, love and compassion we could never get our job done,” he said. “Often times, we miss the birthdays, the ballgames, the anniversaries and other special events that are routine for ordinary families. You see us through the hard times and good times, the tragedies and the triumphs ... you are our heroes.”

Supervisor Michael Kobseff agreed the challenges are great for law enforcement officers of today and said the Board of Supervisors supports them in whatever ways it can.

After a dinner catered by Mount Shasta Supermarket’s Keith Cool, who was given a Sheriff’s Commendation for his support over the years, representatives from several law enforcement agencies stepped forward to present awards.

Yreka CHP Officer of the Year Richard Villapudua

Villapudua has been a law enforcement officer for five years. He began in 2013 as an officer with the CHP Santa Fe Springs, then Ukiah before transferring to Yreka in 2017. He is a Drug Recognition Expert, a Child Passenger Safety Technician and has additional training in traffic collision investigation.

Villapudua grew up in the foster system and has always wanted to be a law enforcement officer, said Yreka CHP Area Captain Scott Fredrick, who introduced him at Saturday’s event. He was raised in Susanville, graduated from Lassen High School and later attended College of the Siskiyous where he played football and studied administration of justice. He completed an Administration of Justice level two reserve peace officer academy.

“It is evident to me that he is a very positive and kind person,” said Fredrick. He does anything asked of him and is adept at catching drunk drivers.

Villapudua is motivated by his family, including his wife, daughter and son. He spends his spare time enjoying nature, hiking, camping, fishing and hunting.

Yreka CHP Support Person of the Year, Office Assistant Gaylene Earp

Earp was selected for the honor by unanimous vote, said Fredrick, adding, “We could not do our job without her.”

Earp processes traffic tickets, takes care of invoices for payments and takes care of all needs of the office.

She has been with the Yreka CHP for five years, Fredrick said. She began her state career in 2001 with the Department of Disability Services in Yuba City and after five years transferred to the Department of Transportation in Marysville. Earp then worked with Caltrans and volunteered with Butte County CAL FIRE for 10 years before moving to the Yreka area.

Earp is inspired by her family, including her two grandsons and her husband, Bob. She enjoys hunting, fishing, camping, traveling and riding horses as well as activities at her church.

Mount Shasta Area CHP Officer of the Year Christopher McCoy

McCoy is a six year veteran of the CHP. He began his career in the Marin area and then the Susanville area before moving to Mount Shasta in May of 2017.

McCoy is well respected by his peers and supervisors and is a valuable asset to the CHP and community, said Mount Shasta CHP Commander Kyle Foster.

CHP Support Services Employee of the Year, Mount Shasta Area Auto Tech II Mark Gouvea

Gouvea, an 11 year veteran of the CHP, transferred to the Mount Shasta area on Jan. 1, 2014.

Gouvea ensures that all the CHP vehicles are maintained and safe, as many can travel 200,000 miles a year, Foster said. He is out supporting CHP officers no matter the weather conditions and does an exemplary job, Foster added.

CHP Dunsmuir Grade Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Facility Officer of the Year Matt Kostielney

Kostielney has been with the CHP since 1995 and has been at the scales since 2009. He is a dedicated employee who is always the leader amongst fellow officers, said Foster.

Foster explained that the CVIS monitors commercial vehicles and completes 15,000-20,000 inspections a year.

Kostielney was personally affected by the Carr Fire and after securing his family, he came back to work to assist with day to day operations. He works hard each day to reduce the potential for traffic collisions involving commercial motor vehicles, said Foster.

CHP Dunsmuir Grade Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Facility Support Person of the year Commercial Vehicle Inspection Specialist Tom Hanisko

Hanisko has been employed by the CHP since May of 2006 and has been assigned to the scales his entire career. He sets the standard for CVIS personnel and completes almost twice as many inspections monthly as average CVIS staff, said Foster. He is called upon during snow storms and comes in willingly even on his days off.

“The impact Tom has on the safety of the highway can’t be measured and he is making the highways safer for the traveling public, including our families and friends,” said Foster.

Yreka Police Department Police Officer of the Year Officer Aaron Smith

Officer Smith takes it upon himself to follow up on cases and has authored numerous search warrants for identity theft and other fraud investigations, said acting YPD chief Chris Betts. He continues to go above and beyond what is expected of a police officer.

Smith interacts with the public and businesses and makes it a priority to get acquainted on a first name basis with leaders of schools, organizations and churches, Betts said. In January, Smith was seen shoveling a foot of snow from an elderly woman’s walkway so she could get out of her home safely.

Lake Shastina Police Department Officer of the year Morgan Barr

Barr attended College of the Siskiyous and College of the Redwoods Police academies in 2017. He was appointed a police officer in Lake Shastina that year, said LSPD Sgt. and acting chief Will Bullington.

Barr is always cheerful and mindful of representing the Lake Shastina community and the mission of its police department. He is a true team player and is always willing to work for other officers and cover shifts, said Bullington.

Siskiyou County Probation Department’s Deputy Probation Officer of the Year Emily Morlet

About two years ago, Morlet was asked to be the placement officer for those in juvenile detention, said Siskiyou County Chief Probation Officer Allison Giannini at Saturdays’ event.

Placement, Giannini explained, is one of the most difficult jobs in the department and Morlet is asked to travel and spend a lot of time away from her own family to ensure the youth on probation are well taken care of.

“Emily does this job not only well but with immense passion for the youth she serves. She is often their advocate, pseudo-parent and the one person in their lives they can count on,” Giannini said.

Siskiyou County Probation Department’s Juvenile Correctional Officer of the Year, Supervising Juvenile Correctional Officer Ben Stallings

Giannini called Stallings “a tremendous asset to the new Charlie’s Place Youth Day Reporting Center.” His leadership and adaption skills helped develop a new youth program that has been successful in delinquency and truancy prevention. Stallings began facilitating a young men’s group and ensures that students at Yreka High School, Jackson Street School and Evergreen go to class.

He organizes transportation for detained youth to and from Tehama County, where they are housed, and took great pleasure in participating in “Shop with a Cop,” Giannini said.

Siskiyou County Probation Department’s Support Worker of the Year, Legal Secretary Debbie Pimentel

Pimentel “has become the heart of the adult unit,” said Giannini. She has worked hard to streamline processes and is consistently dependable.

“Most importantly, Debbie goes the extra mile for everyone,” Giannini said. This year she spent her spare time making sure the Butte County Probation Department had a Christmas party. She planned and organized the party and drove a horse trailer containing a Christmas tree and other trimmings to ensure those that lost their homes in the Camp Fire had a great holiday party.

Siskiyou County Deputy of the Year Robert Stewart

Stewart has taken the most self-initiated cases in 2018, has a good “clearance rate” and has been among the highest achievers in the department, said Lieutenant Darrell Frost in his nomination letter for Stewart.

He has been the primary investigator in two child sex cases and other high profile cases in which his proactive style has been helpful to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department. Stewart has a knack for civil services, and in 2018 served 142, more than anyone else in the department, said Lopey.

Stewart has more than 20 years of field experience and has fostered positive relationships with outside agencies.

Siskiyou County Sheriff Department’s Support Person of the Year, Property and Evidence Coordinator Kelly Giordano

Giordano has been working in her current position for four years and has been pivotal in getting the property and evidence functions running smoothly and professionally, said Lopey. She also fills many other roles in the department and provides hours of support for dispatch, fleet, the 10-33 program, detectives, records, facilities and other duties as assigned.

Giordano has been exemplary in working with the Siskiyou Interagency Marijuana Investigation Team and processes all marijuana evidence taken in raids. She takes part in the drug take back program and supervises the drop off of all boxes to the DEA at the end of each event.

Giordano works well with the auditor’s office and she has a candid and honest manner, said Frost.

Siskiyou County Sheriff Department’s Correctional Deputy of the Year, Correctional Deputy II Tami Wessel

Wessel has worked for the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department for more than 23 years in a variety of assignments, including the supervision of inmates. She works in the Day Reporting Center and her biggest role is as the supervisor of the Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program, or SWAP, which provides inmates serving alternative sentences to clean the Interstate 5 corridor from litter and weeds, which in turn reduces risk of wildfire.

In his commendation, Siskiyou County Jail Commander, Captain Jeff Huston said when Wessel first began her career, she was briefly taken hostage by an inmate who held a handful of pencils to her neck. She was extricated from that situation and didn’t let the incident ruin her long and successful career.

Siskiyou County Sheriff Office’s Detectives of the Year Jesus Fernandez and Jeff Moser

Detective team Jesus Fernandez and Jeff Moser of the department’s Major Crimes Unit worked 75 cases in 2018 and served more than 50 search warrants. They maintained a nearly perfect clearance rate in their investigations, said Sergeant Jim Randall, who recommended them both for the honor.

“The types of investigations conducted by detectives are often complex and time consuming and require numerous interviews, follow up investigations and hours of reviewing audio and video recordings. This type of work often comes at the expense of missing time with their families,” said Randall.

Fernandez and Moser offer their assistance to other deputies and allied agencies whenever the need arises and “willingly put their work aside to focus on their assistance ... knowing they will be behind on their own work,” said Randall.

“Their professionalism and sincere compassion when interacting with victims and their family members are second to none,” Randall added.

Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department Support Person of the Year, Crime Scene Investigator Bonnie Mortenson

Mortenson processes crime scenes for forensic evidence and assists patrol and allied agencies in processing scenes, evidence and analytical work. The evidence she collects is often used during interviews with suspects in order to break a case open and sometimes garner admissions or confessions, said Randall.

Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department Chaplain of the Year Paul Leeman

Leeman joined the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Chaplain’s program in January 2012 and is active in responding to call outs, getting acquainted with deputies, making hospital visits, participating in monthly meetings and being a part of the annual peace officer memorial service.

He responds to accident scenes, provides counseling, prayers and encouragement as needed, said Chaplain Keith Bradley, who added that Leeman “has made a difference in the lives of our law enforcement and fire personnel and in the lives of our citizens.”

Other commendations

Sheriff’s Commendations were also given to Chaplain Keith Bradley as well as Tony Ginnochio and Skip Tuttle of the Mt. Shasta Elks for their constant support of the law enforcement profession.

More photos

More photos of the honorees can be found at our website, www.siskiyoudaily.com.