Sheriff Bill Brown marked 2018’s performance award ceremony as an occasion to “pause and reflect” on the year that officers and civilians under his command faced the Montecito debris flows and their aftermath. Earl’s Place at Earl Warren Showgrounds was filled on Thursday with Santa Barbara County law enforcement officers, family, and friends, and several members of the public who had offered extraordinary services.
For the second time in the department’s 169-year history, the Major Incident Commendation band was presented to all Sheriff’s Office employees involved in the response to the 1/9 Debris Flow. The disaster was one of the most taxing the county had endured in modern times, and Sheriff Brown said he was honored to award the hard workers in his office with the remarkable recognition. As well, the Sheriff’s Unit Citation, which is awarded for outstanding teamwork and service, was presented to the Special Enforcement Team for rescuing and evacuating civilians stuck in their homes or on high ground during the January disaster.
Pilots and firefighter paramedics with the County Aviation Unit were recognized for their calm, courage, and leadership flying in hazardous conditions. George Deluca, pilot and deputy; Matthew Udkow, fire pilot; Glen Dupont and Thomas Wade, fire captains; and Bruce Meyers and Brice Wible, firefighter-paramedics received the 2018 Sheriff’s Medal of Valor. They had conducted rescues and evacuations in the rain and wind, flying helicopters in to hoist people from rooftops, and performing searches and recoveries.
Awards were also bestowed upon civilians who had performed meaningful and lifesaving acts in the community, among them Patrick Braid. The owner of Montecito’s Village Cheese and Wine Shop, Braid and his employees had nourished first responders and residents body and soul with free sandwiches and friendship. Brown awarded him the Certificate of Merit, speaking of the burden Braid had helped lift for the community.
In the realm of extraordinary life-saving measures, Brown presented for the first time the Sheriff’s Commendation award to officers who had administered naloxone. Deputies had been trained to use the opioid overdose reversal drug in a program that started in 2017; since then, the drug has been administered 19 times. A number of honorees, civilians and officers alike, were also recognized for their lifesaving efforts in cases of suicide. In 2018, the suicide rate in Santa Barbara County was approximately 45 persons, down significantly from the previous year.
This year’s Medals of Courage were awarded to seven individuals for three separate cases. One went to Sgt. Brian Dickey, who had persuaded a man threatening to kill himself to put down his gun. A pair of medals were earned by civilian Maddison Henslin and her boyfriend, Custody Deputy Zachary Salce, for rescuing a woman trapped in an apartment fire; Salce was off duty at the time. The last four were presented to Sgt. Dan Nelson and Deputies James Furber, Mark Riggar Jr., and Michael McNeil, who had confronted an armed man, suspected of murder, and ultimately contained him.