By Randy Pierce
FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS – Dozens of local residents were present to join in the recognition of fire fighters and police officers at the 19th annual event held in their honor at Moody Park in Fairview Heights on Wednesday evening, September 26.
Coordinated by local resident Debbie Baldwin who represents a group called Citizens United For Fairview, the event included the presentation of awards to police officers and gifts given to both the Patrolman of the Year and Fire Fighter of the Year from the Fairview Fire Department.
The Fairview Fire Fighters and Municipal Law Enforcement (appropriately acronymed as FAMLE) night has been held, since its inception under the leadership of Baldwin and the late Bev Mattison, for the stated purpose of honoring those officers and fire fighters who too often “go unrecognized for their dedication in keeping our community safe” and included free refreshments and attendance prizes.
The evening’s activities got under way with a large turnout of members from local Cub Scout Pack 586 leading everyone present in the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Nine members of the Fairview Heights Police Department were acknowledged as recipients of special awards as a result of their initiative and skills in making self-initiated felony arrests.
The patrolmen, who were recognized for their actions which are independent of being dispatched or directed to certain situations and instead taken solely on their own while on duty, include Timothy Birckhead, Nicholas Cerentano, Blane Cline, Tony Flinn, Clay Mason, Aaron Nyman, Ryan Teschendorf, Ryan Weisenborn and Trevor Winters.
These individuals were presented with Aggressive Criminal Enforcement awards that were earned by utilizing law enforcement techniques during vehicle stops that go beyond the standard citation process, exercising their keen observation skills in order to read verbal indications and non-verbal behavior which may represent the presence of someone involved in criminal activity.
To earn the ACE awards, the officers must have made at least eight self-initiated felony arrests during the previous calendar year.
The Fairview Heights Police Department has for many years established itself as a leader in the area when it comes to enforcing laws related to driving while intoxicated or under the influence. Five of its officers, Tim Birckhead, Nick Cerentano, Blane Cline, Clay Mason and Trevor Winters were honored at the FAMLE event for their exemplary performance in this facet of police work that earned them awards from the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists.
Since 1990, the AAIM has conducted an annual survey to give recognition to the most productive departments and police officers.
The Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists is an independent non-profit organization founded in 1982 by families who had lost loved ones in drunk driving crashes. AAIM was Illinois’ first citizen action group dedicated to the fight against driving under the influence.
The Mission of the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists (AAIM) is to prevent deaths and injuries caused by intoxicated or distracted motorists and to assist impaired driving crash victims and their families in Illinois.
To achieve its purpose, AAIM: creates awareness and educates the public about the devastation caused by impaired driving, underage drinking and other dangerous driving decisions; assists impaired driving crash victims and their families emotionally, financially and during court proceedings; encourages community involvement to make Illinois roadways safer and supports strict enforcement of laws and appropriate legislation.
The Fairview Heights Police Department also includes a special session focusing on DUI enforcement as part of its annual citizens academy program, designed to provide participants insight they may not be otherwise exposed to into the various aspects of law enforcement.
During the evening set aside to focus on DUI issues, citizens academy participants get a first-hand experience of the process used by officers to determine if drivers are suspected to be guilty of this offense.
Timothy Birckhead, who was announced by Chief Nick Gailius last April as the 2017 Patrolman of the Year, was also asked to come forward in regard to this honor during the FAMLE Night event and presented with a special gift from Baldwin.
Birckhead, introduced for those at this event by Acting Chief Chris Locke, had been nominated as Patrolman of the Month seven times in 2017 and received that award three of those times. He also led the department by a large margin in the arrests of individuals suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol.
Fairview Fire Department Chief Bryan Doyle introduced for those present the Fire Fighter of the Year fort 2017, Keith Smith, who earned that honor by a large margin, accumulating 906.5 points which are given in various categories such as responding to calls, participating in weekly and special training sessions and special events. He too received a gift of appreciation from Baldwin.
Finishing second for Fire Fighter of the Year honors, with 773.5 points was Daniel Doyle followed by John Krupp with 426 points.
Fire Chief Doyle further shared with those present at the FAMLE Night event that the department saved a total of $8,842,340 of property in responding to calls in 2017, as opposed to a much smaller total of $270,439 in value that was lost, most the result of structural fires with three having occurred in January and four in December.
The fire department answered 527 calls in 2017, according to Doyle’s report, with these being spread out over 260 days during the calendar year plus 192 evenings and 75 nights.