Ten Lawrence Township police officers were honored by Township Council Tuesday night for their accomplishments — from stopping burglary sprees to helping solve shooting incidents — during the past year.
The awards — the Chief’s Achievement Award for Police Officer of the Year, the Police Achievement Award and the Commendable Service Award — are given to Lawrence police officers every year during National Police Week, which is May 13-19.
“As we celebrate the accomplishments of several of our officers, let’s not forget those officers across this country who have died while keeping their communities safe,” Chief of Police Mark Ubry said, noting that May 15 is Peace Officers Memorial Day.
Turning to the awards, Police Officer Ryan Dunn was given a special honor when Ubry announced that he had received the Chief’s Achievement Award for Police Officer of the Year.
“This award is given to an officer who best exemplifies the high professional standards of the Lawrence Township Police Department and has consistently performed assigned duties in an exemplary manner throughout the course of the calendar year,” Ubry said.
Dunn, who began his career as a police dispatcher in 2007 and became a police officer in 2012, was nominated by his supervisor “for his dedication, drive, competence, willingness to help, strong leadership skills and overwhelming positive presence,” according to the Township Council proclamation honoring him.
Turning to the other award winners, Ubry announced Detective Kevin Reading was given the Police Achievement Award, which is awarded to a police officer “for performing an outstanding act that enhances the Police Department’s mission and furthers its goals and brings credit to the Police Department.”
Since Reading was assigned to the Mercer County Shooting Response Team in 2015, he has been involved in more than 300 shooting investigations, including serving as the lead investigator in 37 criminal attempted homicides. Of those 37 cases, 18 were cleared with the arrest of 26 suspects, Ubry said.
Reading also recovered five firearms, which have been matched to shootings that occurred in Trenton, Ubry said. During search warrants related to the arrests, Reading recovered illegal narcotics. One investigation led to the recovery of 2,750 bags of heroin which had been laced with fentanyl, which is deadly.
Eight other police officers were given Commendable Service awards for their actions. The police officers caught burglars, found a missing teenager and determined who was driving the car that struck and killed a gas attendant at the QuickChek convenience store at the Brunswick Circle.
Ubry outlined the circumstances that led to Officer James Gorski being awarded a Commendable Service Award. He was honored for catching two burglars, after noticing a suspicious car at a closed business on Princeton Avenue at 2 a.m. Oct. 12, 2017.
Officer Gorski saw a man breaking into the Five Points Check Cashing business. The man saw the officer and fled on foot. An accomplice, who was hiding in the parked car, was taken into custody by Officer Gorski. Police officers searched the neighborhood and caught the second burglar.
Officer Robert Janoski earned a Commendable Service Award for catching two men who had broken into parked cars after he was sent to investigate a car that was being driven on Birchwood Knoll with its lights turned off May 23, 2017.
When he arrived, Officer Janoski discovered a parked car with an active alarm. He saw several suspects flee on foot into a wooded area. Officer Janoski caught two of the men and recovered items that had been stolen from several cars.
Two additional suspects were caught, following an investigation by the detective bureau. In all, the four suspects were charged with burglary and theft for breaking into seven parked cars, Ubry said.
Sgt. Richard Laird and Officers Dylan McClister and Steve Austin were given Commendable Service awards for catching two men who were charged with breaking into 10 parked cars. This is McClister’s third Commendable Service Award and Laird’s second Commendable Service Award, Ubry said.
McClister was on patrol Sept. 22, 2017 around 5 a.m. when he saw two people near a parked car on Smithfield Avenue. They fled when they saw the police car. Laird and additional police officers responded to the area to search for the men.
Laird saw one of the men and tried to apprehend him, but the man fled. Austin joined the foot chase, and between the three officers — Laird, Austin and McClister — the man was caught. The second suspect was located a few hours later.
Detective Todd Caruso received a Commendable Service Award — the second one in his career — for his role in catching the man who robbed the Pasmel gas station on Brunswick Pike at Texas Avenue, and who struck the attendant during the June 4, 2017 incident.
The suspect robbed the gas station of $850 in cash and $1,200 worth of cigarettes, Chief Ubry said. With only surveillance footage to work with, Caruso identified the man as an Edison resident. He was subsequently arrested and charged with robbery and theft.
Detective Dan Gladney was given a Commendable Service Award — his fifth one, Chief Ubry said — for his investigation into a hit-and-run accident that turned deadly at the QuickChek convenience store at the Brunswick Circle on Feb. 19 of this year.
Gladney was the lead investigator in the incident, during which a gas attendant was struck and killed as he tried to stop a driver who had struck another car in the parking lot. The detective’s work resulted in identifying the driver within three days. He was arrested within two weeks.
Officer Bruce Miller received his second Commendable Service Award for locating a teenager who had been reported missing in Staten Island, N.Y. since August 2017. The case involved several law enforcement agencies in New York and New Jersey.
The case, which involved aggravated assault and sexual assault, was solved after Miller stopped a car for a minor equipment violation March 30 of this year. He recognized one of the car’s occupants as the missing 15-year-old, and contacted detectives. The girl was reunited with her family, Ubry said.