A special night in honor of Laguna's topmost cops

BARBARA DIAMOND

The community and the Laguna Beach Police Department paid tribute May

19 to those who serve and protect us.

Thaddeus "Ted" Falencki was honored as Officer of the Year and

Mike Wallock as the Civilian Employee of the Year at the 25th annual

Police Department Awards and Recognition Dinner, presented by The

Exchange Club of Laguna Beach at Tivoli Too. Chief James Spreine and

club officials presented the awards

"Tonight is a little difficult for me," Spreine said. "It is the

last time I will stand here as your chief. But that won't diminish my

pride. Nothing in my life has been more gratifying that to serve this

community."

Spreine will retire in October and move to Sequim, Wa. with his

wife, Linda, who retired from law enforcement in January.

Club President Katy Moss presented the Medal of Merit to Falenki,

who will celebrate 20 years with the department in August.

"Ted is the first Laguna Beach officer to be named officer of the

year twice," guest speaker Judge Gary Paer said.

Paer specially acknowledged Falencki's role in the city's DUI

checkpoint program.

"There are two ways to do checkpoints: the right way and the wrong

way," Paer said. "There are no gray areas. Ted is an expert. His bio

is quite impressive. He is an asset to the police department and as

residents, we are lucky to have him."

Besides checkpoints, Falenki has also been assigned as canine

handler, Explorer Post advisor, special events coordinator and

assistant range master. He has patrolled the city on foot, bicycle

and in cars and all-terrain vehicles.

Falencki has earned three previous Medals of Merit and a Medal of

Courage for his role in saving the life of a fellow officer fighting

an armed suspect.

Falencki's family traveled from Las Vegas to attend the banquet.

Wallock's family didn't have to come as far. His brother, Greg, is

a Laguna Beach police officer and his-sister-in-law, Coleen, is the

department's community service officer and a banquet committee

member. Brother Jeff is a police officer in Orange. Only oldest

brother Dave missed the banquet, but wife, Patty, mom, Anne, and dad,

Dave Sr. were seated front and center to see their son recognized.

Club member Zolita Scott made the presentation to Wallock, who has

only been with the department for two years.

"It's quite an accomplishment after being in the department such a

short time," Spreine said.

Motorcycle Officer Robert Van Gorder received the Police Cross

Medal for injuries he received while chasing down a fleeing felon.

Investigator Paul Litchenberg, who has made a specialty of closing

cold cases, was honored for tracking down and getting confessions

from two killers whose crimes dated back to 1983.

Reserve service awards were presented to Lance Larson, who has

donated more than 4,000 hours to the department, and to Ben Teschner,

who has donated more than 6,500 hours to the city as a volunteer and

reserve officer. This was Teschner's eighth service award.

Reserve officers take on tasks that would otherwise be assigned to

full-time officers and records staff.

Dave Connell, Ross Fallah, Robert Moore, Nancy Taylor, Marilyn

Thomas and Jean Lamphere received C.O.P. (Citizens on Patrol) service

commendations. Lamphere has donated more than 8,000 hours to the

community since she began volunteering in 1994.

Dylan Metzler was named Explorer of the Year. The 19-year-old

college student has been an explorer since 2002 and recently

graduated from the Level III Reserve Officer academy. He is seeking

employment as a reserve officer in Laguna.

Ribbons of commendation were presented to Sgts. Jenny Jones and

George Ramos and motor Officer Tony White, three of only 27 officers

in the county honored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving for their

outstanding efforts to get impaired motorists off the streets. Each

of the officers arrested more than 100 drivers during 2004.

Investigator Matt August also received a ribbon for his diligent

pursuit of economic criminals and highest number of arrests.

Master Marksmanship awards were added to the banquet this year.

"The least-fun part of our jobs is when we have to use a gun, but

when the occasion arises, we have to be good," said Captain Danell

Adams.

Officers are required to spend time at the range, honing their

skills. Officers Larry Bammer, Jim Cota, John Falk, Mike Jeffries,

Sgts. Guy Miller and Ramos and Investigator Greg Walloch were the top

guns of 2004.

Special Appreciation Awards were presented to the Laguna Beach

Unified School District, the Wilbur May Foundation, which donated

$50,000 to the D.A.R.E. program to educate children about the dangers

of drugs, Wynn O'Neil, deputy District Attorney Julie Butler, who

shepherds many cases investigated by the department -- the city

cranks out more than 600 DUI cases alone -- and city Project Director

Wade Brown, who administered first aid to a man who suffered a heart

attack in the city's corporation yard.

Assistant City Manager John Pietig helped present the award to

Brown.

There was no contest for the Barney Fife Award. Investigator Joe

Torres won it hands down. He accidentally shot his sergeant while

serving a warrant. Fortunately, the weapon was a BB gun the

investigator was fiddling with and did little harm except to Torres'

relationship with his supervisor.

Adams also announced that junior police officer Joey Masala was

operated on for cancer on May 18.

"All of our prayers are with him," Adams said.

The Police Deparment presented a special award to Sande St. John

and Exchange Club representatives Hal and Sandi Werthe, all three on

banquet planning committee.

A "Special Exchange Club Award" was presented to Paul Puma, who

donated $2,500 toward the purchase and training of a new police dog.

The club contributed $4,000 to the canine campaign.

"I would like to offer the services of my cocker spaniel, but

Sophie is on Prozac," said Mayor Elizabeth Pearson-Schneider, who

spoke of her long-standing respect for uniforms that symbolize

service to the community.

"I know how their families suffer and sacrifice," said

Pearson-Schneider, whose father was career military. "I also

appreciate their commitment to Laguna."

Mayor Pro Tem Steven Dicterow made a brief appearance at the

banquet to commend Falencki.

Bree Burgess Rosen served as mistress of ceremonies and sang the

National Anthem with Laguna Beach students Sophia Tupy and Kelly

Hancock. Lola Gillebaard entertained. Larry Wohrman provided the

music.

Event sponsors included UPS, Crevier BMW, the Athens Group,

Peppertree Lane and Puma. Table sponsors included David N. Cler and

Michael D. Cook, Sherwood Gallery, Patrick Freeman and Joe Baker,

John Bush and Mary Greenberg, Michele and John Luna Jr., The Laguna

Beach Visitors Bureau, Laguna Beach Police Association, Copy and

Print Center, Carolyn Miller and Bill Morris and the Beach House.

Officers were sponsored by Susan Jacob and Ted Hankin, American

Legion Post 222, Ophelia Lum You, Village Laguna, Terry Smith and

former City Councilman Wayne Peterson, Duane and Darcy Bickel, Dr.

Lewyn and Frances Kiddie, Laguna Board of Realtors, Gayle Waite and

the Laguna Beach Taxpayers Association.

The banquet planning committee included Adams, Dutch Vanderhoof,

Sue Monlux, Bruce Riesenberg, Nit Farnes, Sgt. Darin Lenyi, Robin

Levinson, Tina Linden and Brent Wagner.

* OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline

Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Write to Barbara Diamond, P.O. Box

248, Laguna Beach, 92652; hand-deliver to Suite 222 in the

Lumberyard, 384 Forest Ave.; call (949) 494-4321 or fax (949)

494-8979.

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