Burbank Police Foundation’s 6th Annual Luncheon: Recognizing Local Heroes and Police Achievements

Medal of Valor recipients. Officers who placed their lives in danger for the protection and safety of others.

The heart of Burbank pulsed with pride on February 13th as elected officials, the law enforcement community, citizens, and local business and nonprofit leaders convened at the Marriott Burbank Airport for a long-awaited celebration—the 6th Annual Burbank Police Awards Luncheon. This cherished event, orchestrated by the Burbank Police Foundation, marked a festive return post-pandemic, honoring the unwavering dedication of our police and community heroes during the 2020-2023 period.

Burbank Police Chief Michael Albanese spotlighted the courage and steadfast service of the Burbank Police Department, acknowledging the extraordinary commitment shown during the pandemic when working from home wasn’t an option for these dedicated officers. His pride in their relentless spirit and service was palpable.

The event commenced with the poignant bagpipes of the Los Angeles Police Emerald Society, a stirring honor guard procession, and a captivating acappella National Anthem by the talented Amelia Cucuzza of John Burroughs High School. With a solemn invocation by Burbank Police Chaplain Jose Poch, the luncheon was not just an event but a heartfelt salute to those who embody the best of Burbank.

Michael Hastings, President of the Burbank Police Foundation, acknowledged the year’s nationwide challenges faced by law enforcement, urging all to actively express gratitude for these outstanding public servants. In a heartfelt tribute, Dr. Michael Cusumano, of Cusumano Real Estate Group and a proud Chief’s Circle Sponsor of the event lauded the Burbank Police Department for setting a benchmark in excellence, offering his unwavering support and deep admiration.

Medals of Valor Given for Daring Rescue

The versatile Jim Roope, an award-winning broadcaster and voiceover artist, brought his dynamic presence as the emcee, kicking off the awards ceremony with the prestigious presentation of the Medal of Valor. This highest honor of the Foundation was bestowed upon five courageous officers—Sergeant Christian Diaz, and Officers Jose Plascencia, Ricardo Gutierrez, Austin McKinney, and Grant Bickel—for their heroic rescue of children from a blazing apartment in 2022. The audience was given a glimpse into the perilous situation through a segment of the harrowing body camera footage, offering a real sense of the danger these officers braved to save lives.

Lifesaving Medals

The awards continued with a series of commendations for valorous and skilled lifesaving acts. Officer Rory Timlin received the Lifesaving Medal for his quick use of naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, to reverse an opioid overdose, marking the first such save by a BPD officer. Officers Kate Blackman and Peter Choi were honored for their crucial first aid response to a suicide attempt, while Sergeant Marsha Laufer, and Officers Courtney Pinsky and David Mejia were recognized for their vital emergency medical aid to a stabbing victim.

Professional Esteem Award Honors Cold Case Solvers, Mindfulness for Young Drivers Program Creators, and More

The Professional Esteem Award was presented to a distinguished group for their exemplary work in solving a decades-old mystery. Sergeant Aaron Kay, along with John Bockrath from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman, FBI Attorney Stephen Kramer, and FBI Special Agent Stephen Busch, were lauded for their collaborative efforts that led to the resolution of a cold case over 30 years old—the 1986 murder of Mary S. Duggan. Sergeant Kay spearheaded the initiative, employing cutting-edge DNA and genealogical research to finally bring the perpetrator to justice for Duggans’ murder and also the 1981 murder of Selena Keough in Montclair.

The Professional Esteem Award also honored seven Burbank Public Works employees for their compassionate approach in clearing an encampment that obstructed access to public infrastructure, followed by meticulous clean-up efforts. The awardees were John Molina, Bill Parrish, Daniel Zacariaz, Jose Rodriguez, Chris Butcher, Jeffrey Edwards, and Jesus Munoz, recognized for their dedication and humane service.

Further accolades were bestowed upon Lieutenant Mark Stohl, Josephine Wilson, and Jason Miller for their extensive research and successful deployment of body and in-car camera systems, enhancing transparency and trust within the community.

Recognition continued for city employees Richard Lockyer, Eric Perez, and David Wilcox, who have been pivotal in aiding law enforcement with the traffic management center. Their expertise in managing cameras across Burbank’s major intersections has been indispensable.

Lastly, the Professional Esteem award spotlighted Detective Karissa Peltier, Detective Dustin Rodriguez, Officers Ryan Rhoads and Kiyomi Roberts, alongside Dr. John Paramo, Superintendent of the Burbank Unified School District, and Sergeant Brent Fekety. They were honored for creating and implementing the ‘Mindfulness for Young Drivers’ program at BUSD, a driver-safety initiative spurred by the tragic high-speed crash on North Glenoaks Boulevard in August 2021, which deeply impacted the community. Their collective efforts in this educational program aim to prevent future tragedies and underscore the commitment to youth safety.

Citizen Award, Volunteer of the Year, Non-Sworn Employee of the Year, and Officer of the Year

The ceremony also celebrated community members and department personnel with various accolades. The esteemed Citizen Award was presented to Nancee Rodriguez and Linda Troncone for their exceptional contributions to the community.

The Citizen Award was presented to Nancee Rodriguez for her Selfless Service to the Community.

The Volunteer of the Year honor was awarded to Chaplain Jose Poch for his dedicated service in 2020 and to Jackie Light for her 18 years of volunteerism and community outreach in 2022.

Recognition for Non-Sworn Employees of the Year highlighted the indispensable roles of individuals behind the scenes: Maricela Vega for her payroll expertise in 2020, Joe Farrow for his role as public safety facility technician in 2021, Mayra Robles for her work within the jail system in 2022, and Carly Lott for her forensic leadership in 2023.

The grand finale was the Officer of the Year awards, bestowed upon those who stood out for their extraordinary service: Sergeant Aaron Kay for 2020, Sergeant Christian Diaz for 2021, Detective John Voorhees for 2022, and Officer Robert Martinez for 2023, all celebrated for their remarkable dedication to duty.

    Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center