Nearly two dozen Lawrence Township police officers were honored by the Lawrence Township Council for their accomplishments – from stopping burglary sprees to taking illegal guns and drugs off the street – during the past year.
The awards include Police Officer of the Year, the Supervisor of the Year, the Meritorious Service award, the Commendable Service award, the Unit Citation award, the Life-saving award and the Community award.
“This is great night for us and a great night for the citizens,” Police Chief Brian Caloiaro told the Lawrence Township Council at its June 18 meeting.
Leading off the awards ceremony, Chief Caloiaro announced that Detective Robert Potter had been named the Police Officer of the Year. The selection is made jointly by a Police Department committee and the Chief of Police.
Potter, who began his career as a police officer in 2000, was nominated by his supervisor and his peers, who commended his “strong work ethic, great attitude, thorough analytical skills and the assistance he lends other officers and others in need,” according to the Township Council proclamation honoring him.
Potter was assigned to the Detective Bureau in 2008. He excelled in criminal investigations and interviewing and interrogations, and also served as the supervising firearms instructor and a field training officer for new police officers, the resolution said.
The Supervisor of the Year award was presented to Sgt. Michael Whitmore, who joined the Police Department in 2006 and was promoted to sergeant in 2014.
Sgt. Whitmore was nominated by his officers, who commended his “strong work ethic, great attitude, consistent leadership, integrity, understanding and support both professionally and personally,” the Township Council proclamation said.
Detective Sean Kerins was awarded the Meritorious Service award for initiating an investigation into suspicious activity in a neighborhood that evolved into a two-year investigation which culminated in the arrest of suspects for engaging in human trafficking, prostitution, money laundering and tax evasion.
The proclamation recognized Det. Kerins for his “determination, professionalism and keen investigative skills.” If not for his alertness and perseverance, the suspects would have continued to commit those crimes, it said.
Commendable Service awards were given to Officers Piotr Bystrek, Bartosz Chojnowski, James Gorski, Dylan McClister, Dean Sawasky and John Stever.
During a motor vehicle stop, Officer Bystrek discovered 129 wax paper envelopes containing heroin. The occupants were charged with assorted drug offenses.
Officer Chojnowski stopped a pedestrian who appeared to have a holster protruding from under his sweatshirt. The man had an imitation Glock 17 loaded pellet gun, an FBI Special Agent badge, and a U.S. Bail and Fugitive Recovery Agent badge. He was charged with weapons offenses and impersonating a police officer.
Officers Gorski and McClister were canvassing an area on Princeton Pike in connection with a burglary when they observed Xanax pills and marijuana in plain sight inside a car. The occupant also had a stolen gun and hollow point bullets in his possession, and was charged with drug and weapons offenses.
Officers Gorski, McClister and Sawasky stopped a car for a motor vehicle violation, and found drugs, ammunition and a stolen gun in the driver’s possession. He was charged with weapons offenses and receiving stolen property.
Officer Sawasky received a Commendable Service award for stopping a suspicious car that was leaving a motel on Route 1. The three occupants had marijuana, a loaded BB gun and three double-edged daggers in their possession, and were charged with drug and weapons offenses.
Officer Stever was given two Commendable Service awards for separate incidents – for stopping two trucks that were behind restaurants, casing the used cooking oil tanks to steal the contents and sell them to recyclers for biodiesel fuel, and for arresting three suspects who had broken into a car and stolen the contents.
Unit Citation awards were given to Sgts. James Smith and Kevin Reading Jr., Officers John Stever, Bartosz Chojnowski, James Gorski, Poitr Bystrek, Paulina Way, Robert Janoski, and Detectives Todd Caruso and Andrew Lee for working as a team on a reported robbery and theft at gun and knife point.
The officers, working together, identified the suspects within 30 minutes and charged them with drug offenses, robbery and theft.
A Unit Award was given to Sgt. Richard Laird, Detectives Todd Caruso and Ryan Dunn, and Officers James Steimle and Marcin Piezga for catching four men who were pulling on car door handles to burglarize the cars. The men were charged with burglary and theft.
Life-saving awards were given to Officer Marc Poveromo and Detective Andrew Lee for tracking down a suicidal woman and stopping her before she could harm herself, and to Officers Mark Eggert and Shane Hickey for reviving a suicidal man and keeping him alive while waiting for paramedics to arrive.
The Community Award was made to Officer Christopher DiMeglio for organizing the annual flag football game between Lawrence Township police officers and volunteer firefighters from the Slackwood Fire Co. to benefit Toys for Tots and Mallory’s Army.
DiMeglio also participates in the annual Police Unity Tour, which is a fund-raiser for the families of officers who were killed in the line of duty. The officers ride bicycles to Washington, D.C.
And although he retired from the Lawrence Township Police Department several years ago, former Police Officer Sam Pastorella was given a Community Award for serving as the unofficial photographer and making his photos available to the Police Department.