- - Friday, May 19, 2017

Linden, N.J., Police Officers Angel Padilla, Peter Hammer and Mark Kahana responded to a call in late summer of 2016, an extraordinary call, about a suspicious man seemingly sleeping outside the doorway of a bar. What they soon learned after awakening the man was that he was a suspected terrorist who had planted three bombs in New Jersey and New York City.

In fact, when officers approached, he pulled out a 9mm Glock, striking Officer Padilla in the abdomen. Moments later, the suspect encountered Officer Hammer and fired, striking the officer in the head and hand. Still in pursuit, the officers opened fire on the suspected terrorist, who was struck at least seven times, including in his liver.

To their credit, the suspect, Ahmad Khan Rahami, an Afghan American, was back in court this week, standing trial for attempted murder and a range of other charges in New Jersey and New York for the bombings, which injured 31 people.
The three officers and two investigators in the case were in the nation’s capital this past weekend, honored as Top Cops by the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO).

NAPO has been sponsoring the event since 1994, and is in the midst of receiving nominations for next year’s ceremony.These heroes of ours are always at the ready, even when they are called to such events as a Father’s Day celebration gone bad.

Such an event in Syracuse, N.Y., brought Officer Kelcey Francemore her Top Cops honor.

Officer Francemore rushed into the chaotic scene, which included armed gang rivals. Officer Francemore exchanged gunfire with one suspect but as she approached him to disarm, the angry mob turned on her, punching and kicking her, tearing her uniform and threatening her life. When backup officers arrived on scene, they could not even see Officer Francemone because she was buried under a pile of people — battered and wounded.

At the Top Cops ceremony, Officer Francemone paid tribute to her law enforcement colleagues and, with a smile, said her father never wanted her to be a police officer.

The 24th annual NAPO Top Cops Awards Ceremony at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in D.C. drew 825 attendees. NAPO is a coalition of 1,000-plus police units and associations representing 241,000 rank-and-file law enforcement officers from across the country. Its mission is as straightforward as the blue line to educate the public and pay tribute to law enforcement officers in federal, state, and local agencies from across the country for actions that go above and beyond and are legendary in the call of duty. 

Award winners are nominated by fellow officers and an independent awards selections committee that consists of national law enforcement representatives made their selections from hundreds of nominations. Officers from the top 10 cases are selected as Top Cops. Officers are also chosen for the Honorable Mention Award.

The nation’s top cop received several standing ovations during his remarks. “Our nation honors your service. We are grateful for all you do to protect us,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “I believe we should tell our kids that when they see a police officer, trooper or deputy on the street that they should wave and thank them for their service.”

The 2017 Top Cops honorees: Sgt. Steven Wong, Officer Marc Valenzuela of the Phoenix PD; Det. Arturo V. Bracho, Officer Michael A. Cantore, Officer Antonio Herrera and Officer Alejandro Lagunas of the Chicago PD; Sgt. Robert P. Pearsey of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department; Sgt. Norbeto Perez, Patrolmen Richard Cintolo, Joseph Greco, Joseph H. McSorley, Matthew J. Morris, Lenin Ortiz, Eric T. Schmidt, Clifton W. Singletary of the Boston Police Department; Sgt. Michael H. Baker, State Trooper A. J. Kardoos, State Trooper Scott M. McDonald of the Massachusetts Police Department; Investigators Peter D. .Hammer Jr., Mark A. Kahana, Officers Daniel R. Diaz, David Guzman, Angel L. Padilla Jr., of the Linden (N.J.) Police Department; Lt. Emmanuel Kwo, Officers Arvid Flores and Elwin Martinez of the New York City Police Department; Officer Kelsey J. Francemone of the Syracuse Police Department; State Trooper Nic Cederberg of the Oregon State Police; Officer Andrew Hopfensperger of the Antigo (Wisconsin) Police Department.

State Trooper Nic Cederberg of the Oregon State Police accepted his award in a wheelchair.  Seriously injured in a gunfight with a perpetrator who murdered his estranged wife on Christmas evening 2016, Cederberg was struck a dozen times.  Five bullets embedded in his bullet resistant vest and seven in his body—one lodged in his spine, and he was knocked off his feet from the impact.  Trooper Cederberg has been tenacious, determined and working hard daily to recover from his serious injuries. He moved the audience to tears with his acceptance speech.   

Retirees saluted their heroes, too. “It is a full house, and it’s nice to see law enforcement supporting each other and civilians supporting the police,” said first-time attendee Jo Ann Villodas.

Even after 25 years of law enforcement service, I can’t help but feel profound emotion for the stories I heard from this year’s Top Cops,” said Ms. Villodas, who served with the New York Police Department. “I can’t help but feel immense pride to be part of my law enforcement family and see all law enforcement officers—domestic and foreign—as my brother or sister. And, the brothers and sisters in blue are always there for one another in good times and bad.”

Karen L. Bune, a freelance writer, serves as an Adjunct Professsor George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia.  She also serves on the Speakers Bureau for George Mason and is a nationally recognized trainer on public safety and victim issues.



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