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
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
"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
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
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
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)