Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) Acting Commissioner Anthony J. Annucci today announced that six Medals of Honor and six Medals of Merit were given to 12 New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision employees for their courageous acts in 2018. To date, DOCCS has awarded 64 Medals of Honor and 144 Medals of Merit since the awards program began in 1984. The Medal of Honor is presented to employees whose actions in the line of duty demonstrate an extraordinary degree of courage, bravery or heroism. The Medal of Merit is presented for extraordinary performance in the line of duty, an exceptional contribution to the Department, or for an exceptional contribution to public service which brings credit to the Department.
The ceremony also included the annual reading of the Memorial Roll, which includes the names of the 43 individuals who died in the line of duty, along with their facility or bureau and title at the time of death. The event was held at the Albany Training Academy on New Scotland Avenue where several hundred-people gathered.
“We are proud to recognize distinguished employees and those who have died in the line of duty,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who spoke at today’s event. “Today we honor 12 State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision employees who went above and beyond to serve others. We also remember the 43 employees who are no longer with us and their families. We are grateful to the employees of DOCCS who rehabilitate those who re-enter our communities, protect our society, and keep us safe.”
“It takes individuals with special character to run toward danger instead of away from it. But DOCCS employees are truly a rare and special breed,” said DOCCS Acting Commissioner Anthony J. Annucci. “Today, we honored employees who put the lives of others above their own and we paid homage to individuals from our Department who have made the ultimate sacrifice. While our mission is ensuring public safety, it is evident by those we have recognized today that our staff often go above and beyond the call of duty. I am honored to be at the helm of this extraordinary state agency whose employees do their jobs with the highest honor and dignity.”
Medal of Honor
Office of Special Investigations Senior Investigator Charlotte Meigs and Investigator Kevin Salemo came upon an accident involving a school bus and passenger vehicle while traveling for work. The car was engulfed in flames and the school bus was still occupied with a bus driver, an injured aide, and three children. The investigators immediately entered the bus and safely escorted the occupants off the bus. One of the investigators attempted to extinguish the fire while the other remained with the passengers until emergency first responders arrived.
Office of Special Investigations Assistant Deputy Chief Investigator Richard Hotaling and Investigator Lance C. Crossett, and Community Supervision Parole Officers Ingrid Cannonier and Maxelliot Correa, were participating in a joint effort to capture parole absconders in Manhattan. They observed and recorded an unrelated dispute between two groups of males when one displayed a handgun and discharged shots striking two other males. After identifying themselves as law enforcement, the suspect ignored their orders to stop and fled into a housing complex. The investigators and parole officers called the New York Police Department (NYPD) and assisted NYPD in a 90-minute search. Their video recording and testimony aided in the conviction obtained by the District Attorney's Office.
Medal of Merit
Correction Lieutenant Timothy P. Corey from Marcy Correctional Facility helped save the life of a 12- year-old boy while on vacation. Realizing the boy had become trapped underwater by the pool's drainage pipe, Lt. Corey quickly notified maintenance workers to shut off the pool's pumps and then dove into the pool. When Lt. Corey, along with other vacationers, were unsuccessful in freeing the boy, they took turns giving the boy underwater lifesaving breaths for 8½ minutes until the pumps were shut off and the boy was pulled to safety.
Correction Officer Jason W. Ploss from Midstate Correctional Facility responded to a vehicle accident that occurred outside his home. The SUV had flipped over several times and caught fire, and the driver was unconscious. While the officer's wife contacted 911, Officer Ploss ran to the vehicle and worked to free and move the driver to safety. He then went back to the burning vehicle to ensure no other passengers were in the car and remained with the driver until emergency first responders arrived.
Investigator Timothy J. Meyers with the Office of Special Investigations was flagged down by a civilian at a gas station seeking help with a driver who was unconscious in a locked vehicle. Investigator Meyers immediately requested assistance from local law enforcement and proceeded to remove the victim from the vehicle. Realizing it was a possible overdose, he performed life-saving CPR as the local officer obtained a Narcan kit from the patrol car, reviving the driver. Investigator Meyers remained with the victim until emergency responders took over care.
Correction Officer Timothy J. Zeller from Fishkill Correctional Facility was on his way home from work when he observed a vehicle exit the highway, roll down an embankment, and burst into flames. Officer Zeller immediately climbed down the embankment and assisted in removing three adults and a dog from the burning vehicle. He then moved the victims up the heavily wooded embankment to the safety of a parking lot, provided necessary first aid measures, and kept them calm until emergency responders arrived.
Correction Officer Michael E. Denkenberger from Willard Drug Treatment Campus was heading to work while Correction Officer Todd M. Benton from Willard Drug Treatment Campus was returning home from his tour of duty. Officer Benton observed a pickup truck strike an embankment, roll over, and land on its roof in the middle of the road. As Officer Benton dialed 911, Officer Denkenberger arrived and saw a man attempting to drag himself away from the vehicle. Officer Denkenberger rushed to assist the man who had collapsed near the vehicle, which was now on fire, and dragged him to safety. Officer Benton approached the vehicle to check for other occupants. Realizing that Officer Denkenberger's vehicle was close in proximity to the accident vehicle fire that was intensifying, Officer Benton moved Officer Denkenberger's vehicle a safe distance from the burning vehicle. Both officers remained on the scene providing aid until emergency personnel arrived.
Earlier in the day, representatives of the Public Employees Federation, the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, and Council 82 joined the Department in honoring employees who died in the line of duty by laying a wreath at the Parole Officers’ and Correction Officers’ Memorial located at the Empire State Plaza in Albany.
The annual Medals and Memorial Ceremony takes place at the Academy’s 50-acre Albany campus. The centerpiece of the Memorial Park in front of the Academy is an Empire blue granite memorial standing 12 feet high, 6 feet wide and 18 inches deep, and weighing 19,711 pounds. The names of fallen employees are enshrined with plaques displayed in the Academy Memorial Room.