A small crowd gathered in a second-story room at Juneau Police Department headquarters Monday to hear stories of local lifesaving efforts and to honor those responsible.
Chief Bryce Johnson handed out three Citizens Awards for Lifesaving and three JPD Lifesaving Medals for heroics from the past year, from a boat owner saving a stranded swimmer in frigid water to an officer administering CPR on a collapsed man at the Juneau International Airport.
“I’m incredibly, incredibly proud to associate with these great, great, great people,” Johnson said. “You will not find a better group of folks.”
Three officers received medals for lifesaving, with Sgt. Brian Dallas, Officer James Esbenshade and Officer James Quinto earning the JPD Lifesaving Medals. Transportation Security Officers Larry Nelson and Noah Teshner earned Citizens Awards for Lifesaving. Another man, Mark Hoffman, also earned the Citizens Award but lives out of state and was not in attendance.
The awards ceremony was the final one for Johnson, who accepted a job as chief of the Idaho Falls Police Department. Johnson presented the awards and spoke briefly about the department’s recent successes on the Fourth of July and in fitness tests, cracking jokes along the way. Deputy Chief Ed Mercer, who will be sworn in as Johnson’s replacement next Monday, assisted in handing out the awards.
The two of them handed out a number of awards relating to education and fitness as well, commenting at how difficult some of the physical tests are for the officers. Johnson also spoke briefly about standout officers during the Fourth of July holiday.
While many in Juneau enjoy the fireworks, parades and general revelry of the holiday, those in the police department take it very seriously. There’s quite a bit of work to do when it comes to keeping people safe and managing the parade routes, Johnson said. It was another busy year, with 852 reported incidents from the Friday before the holiday to the Wednesday morning after the holiday.
The lighthearted ceremony lasted just under half an hour, and finished with two Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials speaking about their respect for Johnson. Assistant Federal Security Director for Law Enforcement Joe Flores and Assistant Federal Security Director Dave McDermott interjected at the end of the ceremony, surprising Johnson with their wish to honor him.
“Chief,” Flores said, “can’t forget about you.”
“Oh, yes we can,” Johnson retorted, as attendees chuckled.
Flores and McDermott both spoke about the partnership between JPD and TSA, saying it has gone smoothly thanks in part to Johnson’s leadership. They also wished him well in Idaho, with Flores saying that he’s already talked to his colleague in Boise about Johnson.
Johnson went back and forth between jokes and serious comments, but made it clear multiple times that he felt that the police department was in good hands because of the hard work of everyone around him. When the TSA officials spoke about Johnson, he deflected the credit to the officers standing around theroom.
“That’s the cool thing, when you get awards for all the hard work that these guys do back there,” Johnson joked, gesturing at officers gathered at the back of the room. “They know that it was them that did the hard work, but thank you.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org.