Bel Air's Bonczewski is state's Trooper of the Year

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TFC Michael J. Bonczewski of the Bel Air Barrack has been named 2011 Trooper of the Year for the Maryland State Police.

Police Superintendent Col. Marcus L. Brown announced the statewide 2011 Trooper of the Year for the Department during a ceremony that recognized local winners from each barrack and division.

Bonczewski was named the Bel Air Barrack's Trooper of the Year last month.

In addition to making numerous traffic stops and arrests last year, Bonczewski was recognized for his work in street gang intelligence and drug interdiction, including his investigation that led to the dismantling of a tri-state fraudulent prescription ring operating in Harford County.

"I'm still in shock as to receiving the award," Bonczewski wrote in an e-mail Thursday. "I didn't expect it; it's definitely a wonderful honor and I'm humbled to have received it."

Bonczewski said it was his ambition to be a police officer. "It's something I wanted to do since I was a young kid," he said. He received a degree from Towson University and then applied to the state police.

"Even though the award is based on individual performance for the year, it's something that I couldn't have done without having a great group of supervisors and troopers to work with," he continued, also thanking his family for their support and backing, especially with the "crazy hours" he works.

"I do what I do because I like it," he said. "It's definitely not for the awards or anything, it's because when I go out on the road, I want my family to be safe, I want everyone's else family to be safe."

"I'm humbled to receive the award," he added. "It hasn't really all set in yet."

According to a state police news release, Bonczewski more than earned his Trooper of the Year honor.

"During 2011, TFC Bonczewski continued the record of outstanding performance as a state trooper he began only four years ago when he joined the Maryland State Police," a narrative the state police prepared about Bonczewski says. "'Impressive, incredible and impeccable' are just three of the terms used by his supervisors to describe him. He led the barrack, or was second, in nearly every performance category. In some categories, his performance exceeded entire Bel Air Barrack work group performances. He was the top producer at the barrack for seven months of 2011."

According to the narrative, Bonczewski made 2,585 traffic stops and issued more than 2,700 citations and almost 1,800 warnings. He issued more traffic citations than any other trooper in the Maryland State Police. He led the barrack in DUI arrests with 46 and was second in drug arrests with 23. He led the barrack in overall criminal arrests with 41 and was second in warrant arrests with 26. He led the barrack with 50 criminal investigations.

"I don't know how he does it," Lt. Charles Moore, the Bel Air Barrack commander, said last month when Bonczewski was honored as the barrack's top trooper for the second year. "I couldn't do it when I was on the road."

According to supervisors, Bonczewski often worked past normally assigned shifts to ensure all his duties were completed.

"He often volunteered to work beyond his tour of duty to support barrack manpower needs," the state police narrative continued. "His uniform, equipment and attitude are always impeccable. He serves as a field training trooper and those he trains turn out to be top performers as well. He was chosen last year to serve on the Harford County Traffic Task Force, which has already impacted traffic safety in the county, thanks in no small part to the efforts of TFC Bonczewski."

Criminal cases

Bonczewski was involved in a number of high profile criminal cases in 2011.

When he was dispatched to an assault call in Edgewood last year, Bonczewski employed his "exceptional investigative intuition."

According to state police, while interviewing the suspect in a domestic violence assault, he saw numerous gang tattoos. He then developed a rapport with the man who eventually provided a wealth of information involving gang-related crimes and member identifications.

He also provided the only known copy of the "Blood Bible," in the region, state police said, calling it "an extremely valuable aid for gang investigators working the Bloods gang in Maryland."

Another call involved a prescription fraud at an Abingdon pharmacy, state police said, adding: "The diligent investigation of TFC Bonczewski led to the arrest of the suspect and the recovery of hundreds of prescription medications."

He is also credited with recovering numerous fraudulent prescription slips and computer equipment used to make fake prescriptions and military documents. His investigation ultimately closed a tri-state crime spree involving forged prescriptions and a lucrative narcotics ring. The suspect he arrested was estimated to have passed more than 5,000 illegal prescriptions, state police said.

'Extraordinary' performance

"Trooper First Class Bonczewski's ability and performance as a Maryland state trooper can be summed up as extraordinary," Cpl. Ray Domico, Bonczewski's supervisor wrote. "His overwhelming dedication, work ethic and acts of self-sacrifice are the ultimate model that other department and allied agency personnel should emulate. His level of performance and service has unquestionably made Harford County and our state a safer place to live."

During his short career, Bonczewski has accumulated an impressive list of awards. He was Trooper of the Year at the La Plata Barrack in 2009. That same year he was Trooper of the Year for the Southern Region. In 2010, he won Trooper of the Year for the Bel Air Barrack and won the same award that year for the Northern Region. He was the state police recipient of the International Association of Chiefs of Police "Trooper of the Year" Award for 2010. He won the 2011 American Legion Officer of the Year.

"Congratulations Trooper First Class Bonczewski, you definitely earned this honor," Lt. Moore, the Bel Air Barrack commander, wrote in an e-mail.

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