VINTON–For twelve years the Vinton Police Department has been honoring its officers at an annual awards banquet, celebrating their achievements over the course of the past year.
At the November 19 ceremony, keynote speaker Chief Howard Hall of the Roanoke County Police Department lauded the Vinton force for its accomplishments and its cooperation with other law enforcement agencies in the area in making the Roanoke Valley a safer place to live.
Chief Hall, a nationally recognized expert in data-driven policing, spoke about the trend in law enforcement to make better use of data analysis.
“Use of data will help us to prioritize and allow us to use limited resources to focus on where crime is happening and where violations are occurring,” said Hall.
With five law enforcement agencies working in close proximity– Vinton, Roanoke County, Roanoke City, the City of Salem, and the Virginia State Police—law enforcement in the region can maximize resources by using data to work more collaboratively.
Throughout the evening, many members of the Vinton Police Department received commendations for their service, from traffic safety awards, to a“Top Gun” award for marksmanship, to Patriot Awards for those now serving in the Armed Forces.
“Great communities are safe communities,” said Town Manager Chris Lawrence. “Our police force is a vital piece of our community.”
In presenting the Mayor’s Customer Service Award to Officer Michael Byrd, who works with students in the local schools as part of his duties, Vinton Mayor Brad Grose thanked all members of the force for the job they do every day.
“Often your jobs can be dangerous,” said Grose. “We thank the families who sacrifice and stand behind the officers.”
Stephen Foutz received the department’s most prestigious award and was named the 2012 Officer of the Year. Foutz is a graduate of William Byrd High School.
“We are a profession that wears many hats throughout our careers,” said Vinton Police Sergeant Fabricio Drumond in presenting the award to Foutz. “We are not only police officers, but problem solvers, preacher, negotiator, teacher, parents, medics, and marriage counselors.”
Officer Foutz was chosen for the top award because of the numerous occasions when he went above and beyond the call of duty serving in many of those roles. Although he has only been on the local force for three years, Foutz was recognized by his peers five times as Officer of the Month between January 2011 and May 2012.
He was first recognized for his decisive actions in giving rescue breaths to a patient who would not have survived without his assistance, according to the Vinton Rescue Squad. He next investigated a break in and obtained a confession, additional information on a case of vandalism, and an immediate arrest on a felony prescription fraud case.
In November 2011, Foutz worked a hit and run where the suspect vehicle was reported to be driving erratically as well as striking parked vehicles. He discovered a subject in the vicinity who appeared to be impaired. After his investigation, he was able to locate the suspect vehicle and to arrest the offender. After obtaining a search warrant, he was able to find evidence of drug use in the vehicle.
In the same month, his investigation during a traffic stop led to a Driving Under the Influence arrest along with seizure of cocaine and multiple arrests.
In December 2011, Foutz responded to a call where an elderly female was having trouble breathing, forced entry into the residence, and assisted the Vinton Rescue Squad in administering first aid to the woman who had by then stopped breathing.
In May 2012, upon stopping a vehicle for a speeding violation, Officer Foutz discovered the driver was wanted by neighboring jurisdictions for felony drug crimes. This subsequently led to the location of packets of heroin, marijuana, illegally obtained prescription drugs, and cocaine residue.
In addition, Foutz has just completed a six week training course and assumed duties as Vinton’s new K-9 officer, along with K-9 partner Jax, a German Shepherd. He has also been instrumental in raising funds for the Special Olympics organization.
“It’s an honor to receive this award,” said Foutz. “I feel like this profession is a calling you must have a passion for. Ours is a very professional department. We thank our community that supports us morally and financially.”
“Law Enforcement Officers do a tough job,” said Sergeant Fabricio, who received this year’s Leadership Award. “Once a year the Vinton Police Department holds an awards ceremony where we are reminded and congratulated on our achievements, whether individual or team effort. Day after day we choose to walk in harm’s way so others might be spared the indignity of violence and victimization.”