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Cobb Public Safety heroes honored at 2023 awards luncheon

Photo of all of the public safety award winners for 2023
October 2, 2023

The Cobb Chamber honored Cobb County’s finest Monday, October 2, during its annual Public Safety Appreciation Luncheon, presented by Marquee Sponsor Superior Plumbing, and Platinum Sponsors Cobb EMC and MetroAtlanta Ambulance at the Coca-Cola Roxy. The event kicked off Public Safety Appreciation Week, a community-wide effort to say “thank you” to the men and women who work tirelessly to keep Cobb County safe. Chief Bill Johnson, 2023 Cobb Chamber Public Safety Chairman & Fire Chief of the Cobb County Fire Department as well as Lance LoRusso of LoRusso Law Firm and Blue Line Lawyer Institute, addressed the audience to share messages of appreciation and to communicate how our community can come together to support our public safety agencies year-round. Following these messages, awards were presented to public safety personnel from across Cobb County, including police, fire, sheriff’s office, campus police and EMS.

Congratulations to the 2023 Public Safety Award winners:

Public Safety Employee of the Year

This award is given to an employee who has performed his or her job with exceptional skill, exhibited leadership and critical incident management and a devotion to their responsibilities.

Field Training Officer Taylor Stanford, Cobb County Police Department

The 2023 Public Safety Employee of the Year recipient, FTO Stanford maintains a fierce devotion to aiding the citizens of Cobb County. FTO Stanford is often the first to clock into shift and is considered the “go to” officer in almost every situation. In the last year, he has responded to over 1,260 calls for service, completed over 375 incident reports, handled over 95 motor vehicle accidents, issued almost 400 citations, and effected over 120 arrests. Earlier this year, a team, led by FTO Stanford, used cutting-edge technology to apprehend a suspect wanted for child molestation and a long list of other criminal charges. The suspect was located within two days after FTO Stanford learned of the warrant. In March of 2023, FTO Stanford made three major arrests over the span of eight days, while still conducting his daily patrol tasks. An achievement like this is something that comes from an intense dedication to and knowledge of the community.


Award of Merit

The Award of Merit recognizes a deserving recipient for acts of courage, demonstrating genuine care and concern for the citizens of the community and going above and beyond the call of duty, often resulting in a life being saved. For the 2023 awards, two Awards of Merit were presented.

Kennesaw Police Officer Jared Wheeler and Officer Blake Arnold and Cobb County Police Sergeant Coty Thompson, Officer Andrew Brock, and Officer Jessica Richardson, Kennesaw Police Department and Cobb County Police Department

On the 28th of December in 2022, Kennesaw Police Officers Blake Arnold and Jared Wheeler got a call about two teenagers playing near a frozen lake. When they arrived at the scene, they could see a boy hanging off the ice with the rest of his body suspended in frigid water. Cobb Police Sergeant Coty Thopson arrived on the scene and presented the idea of reaching a hose out to the boy. Officers Wheeler and Richardson removed their gear to lighten themselves and began moving onto the ice towards the teen to bring him the hose. Once the boy took hold of the hose, Officer Arnold, Cobb Police Sergeant Thompson, and Cobb Police Officer Andrew Brock began to pull him back to the safety of the shore. Once back on shore, the teen shared that there was another boy still in the water. Immediately, Officer Wheeler grabbed the hose and ran back onto the ice. But as Officer Wheeler was navigating the ice, it gave way beneath him, and he fell in. Luckily, the officers were able to pull Officer Wheeler out of the frigid water, but they quickly determined the rescue was too dangerous without the proper gear. The rescue efforts put forth by this unit were incredibly honorable. They employed quick thinking, took action, and put their own safety on the line. The crew evaluated the situation and understood what was best, given the dangerous variables. Thanks to their lifesaving actions – that went above and beyond their police training – the life of a 16-year-old boy was saved.

Station 1 and 2 C-Shift, Austell Fire Department

On September 23rd, 2022, Lieutenant Brent Worsham, Firefighter Kam Forrister, Firefighter Matt Landrum, Firefighter Tevin Sims, and Firefighter Chris Robinson of the Austell Fire Department were dispatched to a house fire. Engine 1 pulled up just four minutes after the call. Upon arrival, they were made aware that there were one to two people still inside. One of the firemen entered through a busted window and successfully saved the first resident. With another resident still trapped, the crew immediately went back into the fire. The second resident was on the opposite side of the house, which made the rescue that much more difficult. In a matter of minutes, the second resident was successfully rescued. Once the residents had been extracted, Cobb County Fire arrived on the scene. Firefighter Landrum and Cobb County Battalion Chief Ian Martin helped to treat the burns of the residents. Thanks to the bravery and skill of these public safety personnel, both residents made it out alive and have since healed from their injuries.


Distinguished Achievement Award

The Distinguished Achievement Award recognizes an individual whose service and performance has exceeded the demands of the job.

Training and Quality Assurance Manager Todd Borowski, Cobb County Department of Emergency Communications

Training and Quality Assurance Manager Todd Borowski has a talent for naturally connecting with others on a personal and emotional level. He has made it his mission to help others understand the importance of mental health. When Borowski joined the Cobb County Department of Emergency Communications, he made it his goal to create a peer support team to help both Cobb Department of Emergency Communications and other emergency communications centers. He also works very closely with the Georgia Office of Public Safety Peer Support group to spread the word about peer counseling.  Borowski’s varied and unique experience allows him to know how to respond to many different emotional situations. After local agencies have responded to a crisis, many have sought peer support from him. Borowski understands and truly cares for people. His caring nature and compassion make him an indispensable professional for Cobb County Department of Emergency Communications.


Outstanding Community Contribution Award

The Outstanding Community Contribution Award recognizes an individual who epitomizes what it means to be a community-oriented public servant.

Officer Paul Hill and K9 Barney, Marietta Police Department

Officer Paul Hill has spent numerous years working in Marietta’s elementary schools as a school resource officer. Officer Hill assists children when they are in a crisis, whether they are on the spectrum, have emotional behavior disorders, or possess medical/mental conditions. If a student becomes violent and/or too much for a teacher to handle, he is called in to de-escalate the situation. He is blessed with a true gift and passion for helping children in these circumstances. Over the past five years, Officer Hill has diligently researched service canines to bring into the classroom. After sifting through thousands of pages of information, visiting out-of-state facilities, and speaking with numerous crisis response facility canine handlers, Officer Hill was able to find a canine partner, Barney. With Barney at his side to help students, de-escalation times have already been dramatically reduced. The immense passion and dedication shown by Officer Hill has brought such huge benefits to those around him, and his community could not be more grateful for these changes.


Medal of Valor

The Medal of Valor is the highest award recognizing an individual for an act of bravery in a life-threatening situation. The award is only presented when a deserving candidate is found. For the 2023 awards, Medals of Valor were presented to the following:

Officer Taniesha Palarche, Acworth Police Department

A skill that is difficult to hone is that of intuition, but Officer Palarche has certainly done so. A skill like this is difficult to teach, but she has built hers up from years of keen observation, situational awareness, and taking information from numerous sources before every decision. Last December, Officer Palarche was placed into a situation of great danger. She had to face a dangerous person twice her size as he violently attacked her and those nearby. During the length of the incident, Officer Palarche kept the man away from the bystanders at the location, keeping the aggression of the man focused on her. She was attacked violently time and time again, and while there were many justifications for using deadly force, she withheld and attempted to subdue the assailant instead. The bravery demonstrated by Officer Palarche was brilliant and the community is beyond grateful for her. This incident shows how truly determined she is in keeping her community safe.

Deputy Sheriff Jeremy Hudgins and Deputy Sheriff Randall Lossing, Cobb County Sheriff’s Office

Deputy Lossing and Deputy Hudgins are two fundamental members of the Cobb County Sheriff’s Department. A demonstration of the two deputy’s intense commitment to the job occurred on September 8th, 2022. Deputy Hudgins and Deputy Lossing were working with Deputy Jonathon Koleski and Deputy Marshall Ervin. The group was trying to serve a warrant at a residential home. After no response, they departed. On the way out, they identified a car that they believed was being driven by the subject of the warrant. Both cars turned around, but the car with Deputy Koleski and Deputy Ervin arrived at the house first. Once the first car arrived, an individual with a rifle stepped out of the front door and shot the two deputies. Deputies Lossing and Hodgins pulled up as the shooting took place, watching their fellow deputies fall to the ground. Deputies Lossing and Hodgins immediately ran to the fallen deputies, attempting to save their lives, even though it meant putting themselves in the direct line of fire. They performed CPR on the fallen deputies until their bodies were extracted from the scene. The courage demonstrated in a moment of intense danger is remarkable. These two men disregarded their own safety to help their fallen deputies. Their actions that day were beyond remarkable and beyond the call of duty.

Detective Bryan Bridges, Detective Dustin Shirley, Officer Michael Calhoun, Officer Christian Gutierrez, and Agent Quinn Lyles, Cobb County Police Department

Detective Bryan Bridges, Detective Dustin Shirley, Officer Michael Calhoun, Officer Christian Gutierrez, and Agent Quinn Lyles responded to a call on September 8, 2022, where Deputy Jonathon Koleski and Deputy Marshall Ervin were fatally shot while serving a warrant. Detective Bridges, Detective Shirley, and Officer Calhoun put themselves in the direct line of fire to provide protection to those rendering aid to the fallen deputies. Officer Christian Gutierrez provided lethal coverage while the other officers and deputies extracted one of the fallen deputies. He then grabbed a ballistic shield and provided cover to an officer who was not in a safe position. Agent Lyles put himself in harm’s way by moving out of cover to take charge and create a direct path to extricate the fallen deputies, getting them to vehicles where they could be transported to the hospital. These five individuals from two agencies each demonstrated heroic acts to retrieve their fallen deputies and bring them under cover.