By Debbie Adams
The Vinton Police Department held the annual Police Awards Dinner on September 22 at the Vinton War Memorial to celebrate achievements in 2019. The awards are usually presented in March for the previous year but were postponed several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Interim Police Chief Fabricio Drumond spoke of the challenges the department has faced in these unprecedented times in a job that “involves complete social interaction between us and the community in which we serve.”
“As officers you provide the checks and balances that society requires in creating and restoring order. A thread holds the rule of law together – you are that thread. Even bigger, our role of community caretakers grew. As individuals, you conducted Happy Birthday drive-bys for our beautiful children stuck at home, Drumond said. “You coordinated parades for our senior communities. You conducted well-being checks on our frail members of society and aided in giving high school seniors a graduation ceremony. I would venture to say that without our officers, many events would not have occurred.
“In our town, we are blessed with a governing body that believes in your profession and places complete trust that you will provide safety and create strong relationships of mutual trust between the police and our residents,” he continued. “After all, it is through a collaborative effort that we are successful in maintaining public safety through effective policing.”
Drumond announced that Officer Brandon Alterio was chosen by his peers as Officer of the Year for 2019.
“Today, we are here to recognize one officer, recognized by his peers, for his devotion to the town, the agency, and the profession,” Drumond said. “This officer has exhibited exemplary skills, a can-do attitude, and a desire to succeed. This officer serves the community with excellence, compassion, and fairness. For someone so young in his law enforcement career to exhibit such strong character and skill in being a well-rounded officer is a blessing for our team. We look forward to watching him grow and become an even better person than he is now.
“The Law Enforcement Officer goes to work in unpredictable conditions, unpredictable weather and unpredictable circumstances,” said Drumond. “The possibility of not returning home is a mere thought, but still exists. The element of danger is real; science supported by data proves that. It takes an individual six-tenths of a second to raise a gun and fire it. It takes even the best trained police officer, eight-tenths of a second to mentally process what is occurring. The odds are already against the officer.
“An officer is challenged to take visual account, make a threat assessment, consider the use of force minimally necessary; plan a response and finally, put the plan into action,” he continued. “If you remember the times, six tenths vs. eight tenths – that’s quite an expectation. No matter the element of danger, it will always be outweighed by the better good.
“The Law Enforcement officer has been taught criminal law, traffic law, civil law, the physics and algebra necessary for accident investigations, computer software, and human behavior, and handles sophisticated systems and programs. The Law Enforcement officer is a troubleshooter; he identifies a problem and puts his heart, soul, and knowledge into solving it. He is trained to use his body as a weapon and more importantly, as a shield to the defenseless. He is trained to take a life as a last resort– save one – because of the sacrifice for the greater good,” the chief said.
“The law enforcement officer will wear many hats. They will act as a therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, and a medic. The law enforcement officer is called upon to repair a broken home, console a child, identify a problem in five minutes that has taken years to create. He is expected to have an answer, offer advice, and is looked upon in a time of need. A Law Enforcement officer will run towards what most of us will run away from. He is trained to do so; he is expected to do so. A Law Enforcement officer’s civic duty to protect and serve our community does not end at the end of his or her shift. More often than not, officers are called upon to perform their duties and exhibit their God-given abilities at any time of need,” Drumond said.
Alterio is a 2005 graduate of William Byrd High School. He earned his Bachelor and Master’s Degrees in Criminal Justice from Liberty University. He is a six-year veteran of the United States Air Force, earning the rank of staff sergeant. He joined the Vinton Police Department in March 2019 after serving with the Salem Police for four years.
Alterio gained media attention in the region last December when he purchased a bicycle for a 9-year-old boy whose bike had been stolen.
Sgt. Michael Caldwell was chosen by his peers for the 2019 Leadership Award.
In presenting the award, Drumond said, “Leadership traits can be second nature to some. We’ve all heard it – leadership is something you are born with. I am a firm believer that leadership is a choice. The term ‘leadership’ can be so broad in interpretation. You’ll always hear a leader is a good boss, a good example. I define a leader as someone with a vision, cause or purpose, perhaps towards a future that does not yet even exist. Leadership is hard, sometimes lonely, and requires sacrifice. They chose sacrifice because they take risks before anyone else does. They choose to sacrifice so that their people may be safe, protected and so that others may gain.”
“A strong leader can be anyone; it doesn’t say ‘leader’ on his/her business card. It’s not an assignment; it’s not a job title. It’s a choice,” Drumond said.
Caldwell is the Community Services Officer for the Vinton Police Department. Part of his job involves working with students at Herman L. Horn and W. E. Cundiff Elementary Schools.
The 2019 DUI Award was presented to Cpl. Jeremy Shrewsbury, who in 2019 apprehended 30 subjects who were driving while intoxicated. In presenting the award, Lt. Glenn Austin noted, “Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes – that’s one person every 50 minutes. These deaths have fallen by a third in the last three decades; however, drunk-driving crashes claim more than 10,000 lives per year.
“Approximately one-third of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers. According to the Center for Disease Control, on average, a drunk driver will drive 80 times under the influence before the first arrest,” Austin said.
“Tough enforcement of our drunk-driving laws is a major contributor to reducing unnecessary and preventable deaths. As law enforcement, one of the main goals of drunk driving enforcement is to raise the perception among drivers that if they choose to drive drunk, they will be stopped and investigated,” he concluded.
Cpl. Jordan Keith was recognized as the 2019 recipient of the Traffic Safety Award. In presenting the award, Austin said, “This award is presented to the officer who shows the most proactive enforcement when it comes to traffic safety-related enforcement and education.
“Most of those who aspire to be officers, share a common desire to save lives and help their communities. Traffic safety is a critical component in law enforcement and instills the very principles that we enter the profession for. The fact is, communities expect their law enforcement agencies to keep them safe and keep the roadways safe. The traffic stop is arguably one of the most valuable self-initiated activities that a police officer can perform,” Austin said.
Drumond thanked the families of Vinton officers for their patience, sacrifice, and understanding in allowing them to serve the community in their jobs.
Vinton Police Sgt. Michael Caldwell paid tribute to Interim Police Chief Fabricio Drumond during the 2020 Police Awards dinner held on September 22 at the Vinton War Memorial by sharing a story about his background.
“On December 7, 2005,” Caldwell said, “a young Marine corporal who was an antitank assaultman with the 1st Mobile Assault Platoon, 6th Marine Regiment, was on patrol in the Hummer he commanded near Camp Al Qa’im, Iraq. A war zone is, of course, a very dangerous place – especially for children. Death and danger are everywhere, but kids are resilient and seem to always make the best of their situation. On that day, a group of Iraqi children had left the shelter of their homes to go play outside. Unfortunately, enemy insurgents had decided to place the weapons of war in their path. An improvised explosive device (IED) detonated, critically injuring several of the children. The young Marine dismounted his patrol vehicle and immediately began administering lifesaving first aid as medical support was called in. The lives of the children were saved. That Marine was our new interim chief, Fabricio Drumond.
“Joining our department as a patrol officers on December 14, 2009, Chief Drumond has distinguished himself as a leader and humanitarian. Those who have worked with him have undoubtedly witnessed his approach to policing. He always treats those he serves with compassion, while still doing what is necessary to restore order. He embodies the quote, ‘You can be tough as nails and still be a gentleman,’” Caldwell continued. “Chief Drumond has always stepped up to any challenge. Since joining the department, he has served as corporal, sergeant and, in 2017, he was promoted to deputy chief of police, where he has excelled! He is a leader, and just as importantly, he is a friend to all who know him.
“On behalf of the Vinton Police Department, we would like to say ‘Thank you’ for all you have done and continue to do,” Caldwell said.
Drumond was appointed by Vinton Town Council to serve as interim police chief in July 2020 when Chief Tom Foster was confirmed as the U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Virginia.
The awards dinner was held with masks, gloves, and social distancing – catered by Sal’s Italian Restaurant in Bonsack.