Six people received the Chief Constable’s Commendation during the Nelson Police Department’s commendations ceremony at the Hume Hotel last Tuesday.
“We’re here to do what we so rarely do: draw attention to and formally recognize those members that have exceeded all expectations we’ve placed on them and have time and time again been stars. In other words, they’ve stood tall among the rest,” said police chief Wayne Holland.
Court liaison officer Jamie Zalys, constables David Laing, Brian Weber, Shawn Zukowski, Sgt. Paul Bayes and Det.-Cst. Nathaniel Holt all received the award in front of a packed house that included the mayor, city council and a variety of Kootenay dignitaries.
Holland presented the first commendation to Zalys, who he described as having exceptional “skill, judgment, dedication and integrity.”
“Specifically, she has developed several procedural methods that have vastly enhanced efficiencies within her own offices, efficiencies that have significantly and positively affected the overall court operations of the department as a whole,” said Holland.
Zalys developed a new system for officers submitting legal reports and information to Crown counsel, which was just one example of the many duties she performed, said Holland.
“Jamie, on her own volition, has designed a procedure that demands and facilitates complete accountability for members when answering such queries and ensures the submission of the requested information is accomplished in a timely fashion.”
Holland said this has “streamlined the Crown counsel report process immensely.”
The remainder of the commendations went to officers involved in a string of recent attempted suicides. The first went to Laing, for “courageous and humanitarian conduct during two incidents of attempted suicide.”
Laing’s first incident occurred on June 3, 2011 when a combative male attempted to jump off the Prestige Inn boat dock. Laing intervened, injuring his knee in the process, and resolved the matter without back-up.
“David, you’d be the first to say you’re doing what you’re paid to do. But on these two occasions for a significant amount of time, you were it,” said Holland.
During the second incident on September 14, 2013, other officers arrived after Laing attempted to intervene in the attempted suicide of a young woman.
“But not before you were required to hang perilously off the side of the big orange bridge for a significant period of time so you could support the entire weight of a combative individual suicidal female,” said Holland.
Once again, Laing suffered a knee injury. Holland called his courageous acts of humanitarianism “inspirational”.
The next award went to Sgt. Paul Bayes and constables Brian Weber and Shawn Zukowski, for two incidents, the first of which occurred on October 22, 2012. A pajama-clad woman was reported walking onto the big orange bridge in the midst of rainy weather.
“In the three minutes it took them to respond from the opposite side of their jurisdiction, two more 9-1-1 calls were received saying the woman was now clinging to the outside of the bridge,” said Holland.
Attempts to negotiate her from the edge were unsuccessful, and ultimately the two officers grabbed ahold of her. Two male bystanders also assisted.
“It required the strength of four full-grown men,” said Holland, who noted the well-known woman has a history of at least eight suicide attempts. She also mutilated her wrist and ankle during the incident.
During a second attempt by the same woman, Weber was able to successfully disarm the woman and take her safely into custody.
“This is not the first time one or all three of you have performed such a feat,” said Holland.
The final Chief Constable’s Commendation went to Det.-Cst. Nathaniel Holt.
Holt was working on Father’s Day, June 16, 2013, when reports came in of a combative, seriously injured male who had announced plans to take his own life in a local business. Holt came across the man sitting in the street.
“You observed him to be sitting in the street, still despondent and obviously bleeding. You had no idea if he was still in possession of the butcher knife,” said Holland.
When Holt approached the man, he was attacked and became involved in a violent confrontation. He ultimately used a taser to subdue the man, suffering some injuries in the process.
“The incident well could have escalated to one where lethal force was required,” said Holland, noting that Holt’s exemplary physical fitness, risk management strategies, skill and valour “saved that man’s life.”
Holland was effusive about all the award recipients, calling their work “heroic.”
“No scientific theory can fully explain it. It’s an illogical response or impulse. It flies in the face of biology, psychology, actuarial statistics and common sense. But heroism is indeed what is being displayed by our officers,” said Holland.
This is the first part of the Star’s coverage of the Nelson Police Department Commendations Ceremony. Parts two and three, which cover the Deputy Chief Constable’s Commendations and the Nelson Police Board Commendation, will be published in subsequent issues.