By Steven Hoffman
Kennett Square Mayor Matt Fetick said that the ceremony where he and Police Chief Ed Zunino handed out Police Officer Service Awards on Monday night provided a snapshot of the work that has been done by the 15 officers in the department during the last year.
It was a snapshot worth a thousand words.
Kennett Square officers were recognized during the ceremony for the various ways that they serve and protect the community, whether they have to pursue a vehicle occupied by three armed suspects into Wilmington, Del., apprehend a dangerous DUI driver who attempted to hit a police officer with a car, or discover that a group of young men have a stolen assault weapon. All the aforementioned scenarios were resolved in a way in which the community was a little bit safer at the end of the day.
“Every day these men and women go above and beyond,” Fetick said. “Every day they do something that is exemplary. The awards only give you a snapshot of the dangerous things that they face. It’s a snapshot of the hard work that they do every day.”
Cpl. Bill Holdsworth and officer Ryan Singleton received the Certificate of Merit for their efforts on Sept. 7, 2012, when they faced a dangerous situation while pursuing a DUI suspect. The reckless driver attempted to hit the officers with the vehicle and did smash into Holdsworth's vehicle before they were able to safely make the arrest.
Singleton was also involved with the April 26, 2012 apprehension of a suspect who recklessly endangered the life of a police officer. That same month, Singleton played a pivotal role in another investigation. Police were looking for a suspect in a pickup truck who was wanted in connection with a series of robberies. The suspect would pick up pedestrians, drive them to a remote area, and then rob them at knifepoint. Singleton was off-duty when he saw a truck that fit the description. He was able to help identify the suspect.
On Jan. 19, 2013, officer Andrew Manko was involved in the pursuit of a vehicle occupied by three armed suspects who were wanted for their involvement in a robbery. Manko, assisted by a Pennsylvania State Police officer, pursued the suspects all the way into Wilmington, Del., where one of the criminals was taken into custody. Manko was presented with a Certificate of Merit for his work.
Zunino handed out Certificates of Commendation to Officer Kenneth Rongaus, Officer Christopher Gravina, Patrolman Ryan Singleton, Cpl. Richard Bell, and Officer Jonathan Ortiz.
On April 23, 2013, Bell and Ortiz responded to a seemingly routine incident involving a half a dozen young men. During the course of the investigation, they discovered an assault weapon that turned out to be stolen. They both received the Certificate of Commendation for getting that weapon off the streets.
The other Certificates of Commendation were handed out to officers for their work getting DUI suspects off the roadways.
Rongaus received a DUI Enforcement Award from MADD for the 2011 calendar year, but the honor was presented too late for him to receive the award at Kennett's ceremony last year so he got it this year. For 2012, the recipients of the MADD DUI Enforcement Award were given to Gravina and Singleton.
“It’s a very important part of our job to get DUI drivers off the road,” said Zunino, noting that Gravina and Singleton both received the award in their first full year of service with the police department.
Det. John Trevisan received the first-ever Community Service Award because of all the time that he donates to the community. Zunino said that Trevisan routinely shows up early for work. He dedicated more than 30 hours of his own time to renovating the American Legion building.
Four police officers—Cpl. Christopher Wills, Officer Sarah London, Officer Jennifer Albertson and Patrolman Oscar Rosado—were given the Police Department Working with Youth Award. This is a new award this year.
“A really important part of our job is also working with youth,” Zunino said.
Wills is active with the Boy Scouts of America and also assists schools in the area. London works with the Garage Youth Center, the After-the-Bell program, and Study Buddies. Albertson is involved with the Study Buddies program. Rosado works tirelessly to prevent gang activity and drug use among youngsters.
“He has worked with a lot of young people who are right on the edge and that’s really important,” Zunino said of Rosado.
The Officer of the Year Award, Zunino said, was voted on by the police officers themselves. This award was presented to Rongaus.
“Kenny had a lot of nominations and a lot of good reasons for the nominations,” said Zunino. “He has great teaching ability with other officers, and he’s always happy to help the other officers. He’s patient, he’s a good instructor, and he’s good at his job.”
“He’s a hard worker who gives a great effort every day,” said Fetick of the Officer of the Year. “He’s involved. He works for his 12 hours to make sure we get what we need.”
Rongaus, 32, has been a member of the Kennett Square Police Department for seven years.
The fact that the award was voted on by his peers in the police department meant a lot to Rongaus.
“That probably means the most to me,” Rongaus said. “To think that they think this highly of me means a lot.”
Fetick said that the awards illustrate the quality of the work by the men and women in the police department. He said that he feels comfortable knowing that they are serving and protecting Kennett Square.
“It’s what let’s me sleep at night,” the mayor said.
Zunino applauded the efforts of the entire department, including the support staff who work behind the scenes to make sure that everything runs smoothly.
“I look forward to coming to work every day because of the people I work with,” Zunino said.