AUSTIN - Last week, the Texas Public Safety Commission (PSC) and Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw presented two Adolph Thomas Distinguished Service Awards, two Director’s Citations, nine Lifesaving Awards and two Director’s Awards. Several other DPS employees were also recognized during the meeting.
“The men and women being honored have demonstrated courage and dedication in varying situations,” said Director McCraw. “Each of these recipients represents Texas at its finest, and we are extremely proud to recognize them for their selflessness and commitment to protecting and serving their fellow Texans.”
The Adolph Thomas Distinguished Service Award was presented for the first time last week, and will be presented annually to one commissioned and one non-commissioned employee. The award is named after Adolph Thomas, who was the first black DPS Trooper. Thomas worked in Highway Patrol, Narcotics, served as Commander of the Training Academy and retired as Chief of Staff Services in 1995 after a distinguished 27-year career with the department. Chief Thomas, who passed away Sept. 24, 2017, excelled in the areas of mentoring fellow employees, training others and civic engagement. The Adolph Thomas Distinguished Service Award was created to honor DPS employees who display excellence and distinguish themselves in those same three areas. The commissioned recipient was Capt. William “Bill” Schneider, Texas Highway Patrol–Lubbock. The non-commissioned recipient was Goodluck Elei, Driver License Division–Austin.
Using his vast leadership experience, Capt. Bill Schneider serves as an advocate for employees; helps draft policies; trains employees; has served on numerous DPS committees; provides leadership to promote positive change; and mentors other supervisors. During the course of his 37-year career, he has served as a firearms instructor and taught classes in a variety of subjects. In addition, he is a strong leader in his community, including his assistance in organizing the “Annual Foster Kids Birthday Party,” which allows children in foster care to have the opportunity to share their birthday with a uniformed officer.
Goodluck Elei serves as assistant manager for three sections of the Enforcement and Compliance Service of the Driver License Division. He excels as a teacher and mentor, acting as a role model for his peers and those he manages by taking time to assist employees at every level and providing feedback necessary to foster professional growth. He holds multiple degrees in a variety of subjects related to theology and business; is a published author having written two books on theology and multiple articles on business management; and is active in ministry, including trips to New Zealand, Australia, Nigeria and Israel.
The following awards also were presented:
- William F. Skeen, Executive Director of The 100 Club of Houston, received a Director’s Award. The 100 Club is a nonprofit organization that provides financial support to the dependents of law enforcement officers who are killed or catastrophically injured in the line of duty. Skeen was presented with a Director’s Award for the tremendous support The 100 Club of Houston has provided to DPS, as well as to families of fallen officers statewide. In addition to providing assistance to their 32 core counties, The 100 Club of Houston also provides line-of-duty death and catastrophic injury financial support to DPS, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
- Major Justin Chrane, Texas Highway Patrol–Austin, received a Director’s Citation. In the early 1970s, a national traffic safety initiative called Combined Accident Reduction Effort (CARE) was launched and ultimately included most of the state police/patrol agencies in the U.S. However, due to several factors, by 2012 CARE consisted of little more than an annual conference. In 2013, Major Chrane became the executive director of CARE and immediately instituted revitalization efforts to gain more state, local, and international participation. He partnered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), leading the transition of CARE into a section within the IACP State and Provincial Division. CARE has since been revamped and renamed the Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort, and 23 states, including the Ontario Provincial Police, are now participating in the program.
- Sgt. Derek Peterson, Education, Training and Research–Austin, received a Director’s Citation. Sgt. Peterson has represented the agency with the utmost professionalism and positive reflection in his endeavors to promote a lifestyle of health and fitness. He sets the example for Trooper trainees and other DPS employees when it comes to maintaining a state of readiness. Peterson has successfully and consistently competed in various national and international rowing machine competitions. He won gold in the World Rowing Indoor Virtual Sprints 1000 meter Competition in 2017, which included 4,862 entries from 64 countries. In addition, Peterson won three gold medals and one silver medal at the 2017 World Police and Fire Games. In 2018, Peterson achieved the overall world and American records for the 4-minute Skierg Competition, and once again, was the overall winner in the 1000 meter row.
- Lt. Rene Olivarez, Criminal Investigations–Weslaco, received a Lifesaving Award, and La Joya Police Department Officer Ismael Garza received a Director’s Award. On Feb. 19, 2017, Lt. Olivarez was responding to a U.S. Border Patrol broadcast when he observed traffic at a standstill due to a crash on U.S. 83. The occupant had been partially ejected during a one-vehicle rollover crash. Olivarez, who is a licensed paramedic, applied a cervical collar to the individual and waited for EMS to arrive. Upon arrival, EMS personnel requested that Lt. Olivarez continue providing assistance and maintaining spinal immobilization while the jaws of life were used to extricate the victim. As the victim was moved to the ambulance, he began to bleed profusely from an arterial injury to his right leg. La Joya Police Department Officer Ismael Garza, who had been dispatched to the scene, was able to control the bleeding by providing direct pressure to the femoral artery. Lt. Olivarez retrieved tourniquets from his DPS unit and was able to control the bleeding. While the victim was being transported to the hospital by EMS, Olivarez applied another tourniquet after the victim began bleeding again.
- Trooper James Rentfro, Texas Highway Patrol–Rio Grande City, received a Lifesaving Award. On Jan. 22, 2018, Trooper Renfro assisted with a traffic stop in Rio Grande City. The driver stated that her mother, a passenger in the vehicle, had just completed dialysis treatment and was experiencing severe bleeding from the fistula in her arm. They were enroute to get the woman medical care. Renfro checked on the woman and noted she was pale and distressed due to the bleeding. He immediately applied a tourniquet and requested EMS. EMS arrived on the scene, stabilized the passenger and, due to the severity of the medical situation, rushed the woman to Mission Regional Hospital.
- Trooper Christopher Rocha, Texas Highway Patrol–Karnes City, received a Lifesaving Award. On Jan. 24, 2018, Trooper Rocha was on patrol when he noticed a thick black cloud of smoke on the west side of State Highway 123. A worker’s truck caught fire while servicing a crude oil tank, which in turn ignited multiple tanks. Upon arriving, Rocha witnessed a severely burned victim climbing out of a water tank who was dazed and incoherent. Rocha immediately took the victim to his patrol car and drove him off the site to a safe area. To keep him from going into shock, the Trooper covered the victim with his raincoat and kept him calm until EMS arrived. Once stabilized, the victim was transported to San Antonio Medical Center, where it was discovered he had third degree burns on more than 70 percent of his body.
- Special Agent Christopher Dale,Criminal Investigations–Waco, received a Lifesaving Award. On Feb. 2, 2018, Special Agent Dale was leaving the office to assist with a search warrant when he observed a fellow DPS employee sitting in her automobile with the door open. She advised him she was not feeling well and had gone outside for some fresh air. He observed that she seemed lethargic, had trouble enunciating and was not completely coherent. Agent Dale immediately alerted other DPS employees to assist while he requested an ambulance. EMS arrived a short time later, stabilized her and transported her to the hospital. It was later learned the employee suffered a heart attack and had been immediately rushed into surgery upon arriving at the emergency room to treat a blockage.
- Trooper Kearney Brown Jr., Texas Highway Patrol–Carrollton Tollway, received a Lifesaving Award. On Aug. 1, 2017, Trooper Brown responded to a five-vehicle crash on the President George Bush Turnpike in Carrollton. Upon his arrival on the scene, he began conducting routine crash investigation when he noticed a male subject from one of the towing services step back from loading a vehicle, clenching his forearm. The man had suffered a deep laceration and was suffering from a significant blood loss. Brown applied a tourniquet to the man’s arm and requested medical assistance. The Trooper then provided water and helped keep him alert until medical personnel arrived.
- Trooper Travis High, Texas Highway Patrol–Amarillo, received a Lifesaving Award. On Dec. 17, 2017, Potter County Sheriff’s Office dispatched deputies and EMS to a medical call for an individual who had fallen and was bleeding profusely due to recent knee replacement surgeries. Trooper High was patrolling nearby and immediately responded to the location and observed that efforts to control the bleeding were not effective. High retrieved his tourniquets and applied them above each knee to restrict the blood flow of the femoral arteries. He waited with the victim until EMS arrived. The treating doctor later advised that had it not been for the action and care rendered by Trooper High, the subject most likely would not have survived due to extensive blood loss.
- Cpl. Raul Garcia Jr., Texas Highway Patrol–George West; Trooper Jacob Gonzalez, Texas Highway Patrol–Beeville;and Trooper Garrett Ray, Texas Highway Patrol–George West, each received a Lifesaving Award. On Feb. 19, 2018, Cpl. Garcia, Trooper Gonzalez and Trooper Ray responded to a three-vehicle crash in Live Oak County that left one driver trapped inside their vehicle. Garcia and Gonzalez began communicating with the trapped victim, who was in and out of consciousness, while Ray broke a window, climbed into the vehicle and assessed the driver’s injuries. After observing the driver had arterial bleeding from a severe laceration to his left arm, Ray immediately applied a tourniquet to control the bleeding. Garcia and Gonzalez cut through the deployed air bags in order to obtain access to the driver, and Garcia worked to close the exposed wound by applying a pressure dressing to control bleeding. Once stabilized, the three DPS officers worked to keep the driver calm and alert until an air ambulance arrived on the scene and transported the driver to Brooke Army Medical Center.
- Donald Lee Van Zandt, Texas Highway Patrol–Sonora, was recognized for 50 years of service with DPS and presented a $1,000 check by the Texas DPS Foundation.
The following were also recognized at the PSC meeting:
- Lt. Donald Bolton, Sgt. Thomas Kovacs, Sgt.Andrew Martinez and Sgt.Raymond Real of the Texas Ranger SWAT Bomb Squad were recognized for their outstanding efforts in partnering with other law enforcement agencies to make our communities safer. In May 2018, the four DPS Bomb Squad officers were recognized by the Austin Police Department (APD) for their efforts in assisting APD during the 19-day Austin bomber case in March of this year.
- Major Rhonda Lawson, Texas Division of Emergency Management–Austin, was recognized for receiving the 2018 National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE)/Motorola Woman Law Enforcement Executive of the Year. The award is presented to honor a NAWLEE law enforcement executive who has exhibited sustained, extraordinary professional accomplishments and made significant contributions to the field of law enforcement over the course of her career. Major Lawson will receive the award at the annual NAWLEE conference in Los Angeles in August.
- Jessica Ballew, Administration Division Director–Austin, accepted procurement awards on behalf of the division from the State Senate for Top 10 Agency Awarding the Most Procurement Dollars and Top 10 Agency Awarding the Most Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) Dollars. These awards recognize the efforts of the DPS Administration Division for effectively processing agency procurement and contracting needs and, in doing so, showing exceptional commitment to utilizing HUB vendors.
- DPS also received theTexas Veterans Commission’s 2017 Employer of the Year Award for “Large Veteran Employer Government Entity.” The award honors both private sector employers and government sector employers recognized for their veteran employment rate and the ongoing support they provide during the veteran’s employment.
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