RUMFORD — Two Rumford police officers recently were recognized at the 15th annual Maine Association of Police Awards Banquet.
For their work in preventing attempted suicides last year, Cpl. Donald Miller won the Heroism Award and Cpl. Lawrence Winson won a Meritorious Award, Paul D. Gaspar, executive director of the association, said Thursday evening in an email.
Officer Brad Gallant was an honorable mention.
“In a sometimes thankless job, it is the recognition from peers that makes these awards unique and special to the recipients, essentially a ‘stamp’ of approval from your fellow law enforcement officers,” Gaspar said.
The Heroism Award is presented to an individual who, under adverse conditions, prevents a death or serious injury while in harm’s way.
Reading from a prepared statement, Chris Todd of the South Portland Police Department and the MAP Southern vice president, said that at 1:12 a.m. Oct. 26, 2012, Cpl. Miller saw a woman at the highest point of Memorial Bridge sitting on the railing with her feet dangling over the side.
Miller talked her off of the railing while inching closer to her and maintaining contact with a dispatcher and another officer, Todd said.
“The woman was determined to harm herself and made several dying declarations while preparing to jump to her death,” he said. “Without hesitation, (Cpl. Miller) rushed the woman as she prepared to jump and grabbed hold of some of her clothing.
“Placing himself in harm’s way, they struggled next to the short railing and the 81-foot plunge to the Androscoggin River and rocks below. Miller continued to hold on for not only her life, but his, as well, and gained an advantage and kept her from jumping or falling until backup could arrive,” he said.
“There is no doubt that had it not been for his brave actions and his willingness to place himself in harm’s way, this female would have succeeded in taking her own life,” Todd said.
Todd presented Miller with the Heroism Award “for his selfless actions,” he said.
The Meritorious Service Award is presented to an active Maine Association of Police member who, through outstanding police or dispatch work, prevents a death or serious injury, solves a difficult crime or crimes, or performs an act that required a great deal of courage.
At 12:47 a.m. June 27, 2012, Cpl. Winson met a distraught man on Memorial Bridge, Gaspar said. Winson began coordinating with other officers, dispatch and fire and rescue units. He got out of his cruiser and talked with the man, Gaspar said.
“The distraught male made it clear that he was intent on committing suicide and was insistent that a particular Maine state trooper come to the scene to watch him plummet to his death,” he said.
After Winson spent almost 20 minutes talking with the man, he returned to the sidewalk and was beside the guardrail.
“It was hoped that calmer heads had prevailed and the male was going to be transported for medical help,” Gaspar said.
Then, without warning, the man turned and began running for the edge of the bridge, with Cpl. Winson in fast pursuit. Winson used his Taser and successfully stopped the man from jumping over the edge of the bridge, Gaspar said.
“With assistance and honorable mention to his partner, Officer Bradlee Gallant, the (man) was secured and yet another life saved in Rumford,” he said.
As an example of Cpl. Winson’s consistent dedication, 11 days prior to this incident, Winson stopped a woman who was attempting suicide by cutting her neck with a razor, Gaspar said.
He stopped her by using a Taser, he said.
A Meritorious Service Award was presented to Winson “for his quick thinking and even quicker actions,” Gaspar said.
Rumford police Sgt. Tracey Higley, who won the MAP Officer of the Year Award in 2013, said Friday that he was very pleased that Winson and Miller were recognized.
“This goes a long way in showing what caliber of officers are here at the Rumford Police Department,” he said. “Of the 11 awards, three were selected from our area, which is absolutely fantastic.”
He was referring to the Business Recognition Award given to Dan Gauvin, manager of the S.G. Thibault Funeral Home in Rumford, for Gauvin’s longstanding support of the Rumford department and community.
As Miller’s and Winson’s supervisor, Higley said, “It’s nice for them to have recognition not just for these incidents, but for the work they do throughout the year.”