Police officers, dispatchers recognized for saving lives

Silverthorne Police Department officers Mariah Kroschel and Jacob Ruiz pose with Medal of Meritorious Service awards on Friday, March 26, outside of the Silverthorne Police Station. Kroschel and Ruiz were awarded medals for performing life-saving events while on duty in 2020.
Photo by Ashley Low

Members of the Silverthorne Police Department, Dillon Police Department and Summit County Communications Center were awarded last month for their contributions in saving lives in 2020.

“It’s a pretty powerful thing to give someone a second chance of life,” Silverthorne Police Chief John Minor said. “It’s profound for the individual officer to know that they saved a human being.”

Minor said the department has been giving out the awards since the late 1990s. Usually two or three are given out each year, he said, but sometimes it’s none.

This year, four officers and four dispatchers were recognized with the Medal of Meritorious Service and the Chief’s Commendation award for their work in two separate incidents.

On Oct. 23, Silverthorne officers Justin Tarpley, Mariah Kroschel and Jacob Ruiz responded to a call about an unconscious man. Kroschel said the automated external defibrillator advised them to perform CPR instead of shocking, and Tarpley administered naloxone, an opioid-overdose antidote.

“Our Narcan has saved so many lives recently, and it’s great that all the officers in the county are carrying it,” Kroschel said about the device that delivers the antidote. “We are able to have immediate action on scene rather than having to wait for medical to arrive to administer the Narcan. That’s been huge in combating the effects of drug overdoses.”

A law enforcement officer for five years, Kroschel previously has been awarded for saving lives with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. At this year’s ceremony, she was presented with an additional medal for saving a life Nov. 26, as well.

“It was pretty amazing,” Kroschel said about being recognized for her efforts. “Each day, we see some bad things, so it’s always good when you get to be a part of something positive that ends up saving a life. It’s probably one of the most amazing things you can ever do.”

On Thanksgiving Day, Kroschel and Dillon officer AJ Jambor, who was also awarded, responded to a call about an unresponsive man at a gas station. The pair happened to be down the street and was able to arrive in minutes. They found the man’s teenage son doing CPR while an emergency dispatcher coached him over the phone on proper technique. The officers then took over until a medical team arrived on the scene.

“It was a team effort, and it’s pretty darn amazing when everything comes together,” Kroschel said, adding that dispatchers often don’t get enough credit. “Dispatch was able to help coach the son, who had no training, through amazing CPR. … It made my Thanksgiving probably the most memorable Thanksgiving I’ll ever have.”

Dispatchers Todd Camper, Ruby Halpern, Leah Irizarry and Kandace Cornelsen were presented the Chief’s Commendation award for their assistance. Halpern was on the phone with the son, Camper dispatched law enforcement, Irizarry called fire and medical personnel, and Cornelsen was taking other calls and assisting with tasks as the supervisor.

Cornelsen said it can be intense at times. The adrenaline gets moving with handling all of the tasks such as dispatching the different units and dealing with radio correspondence. Though she said the award presentation is uncommon for her line of work, it is common for dispatchers to walk people through CPR over the phone. They get certified to administer CPR in person and practice giving instructions to one another over the phone. They also use software to read a script that guides the caller and counts with them to make sure the pace of compressions is correct.

“It was really great to get that recognition,” Cornelsen said. “Two of the dispatchers that received the awards, Ruby and Leah, are actually still in training. They both did a great job that day. Todd, another recipient of the award, has been here for almost 20 years.”

According to the department, the criteria to be awarded include “the saving of a life, or for an act which involves uncommon risk to an employee in the performance of their duties. The Chief’s Commendation is awarded to an employee or citizen who maintains his/her composure when confronted with a highly volatile situation, or for an act of selfless conduct during a time of crisis.”

“I’m proud of these officers,” Minor said. “It’s a privilege for me to work with them every single day.”

Summit County dispatchers Leah Irizarry and Ruby Halpern, along with dispatch supervisor Kandace Cornelsen, pose with their Chief’s Commendation awards on Wednesday, Feb. 24, for their assistance in saving a life. They and Todd Camper of the Summit County Communications Center received the award for helping out with a call involving an unresponsive man on Nov. 26.
Photo from Kandace Cornelsen

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