Public safety workers in Hoover were honored with the 2018 Public Safety Awards at the Hoover Chamber Luncheon on Thursday, March 21, 2019.
Firefighter of the Year — Stephen Finlen
Fire chief Clay Bentley presented the Firefighter of the Year award to Stephen Finlen.
“Stephen has taken on the responsibility above and beyond his normal paramedic and firefighter duties each day to oversee the maintenance, testing, repair and documentation of the fire department’s SCBA program,” Bentley said.
The self-contained breathing apparatus is the lifeline for firefighters, Bentley said. Steven attended many certification classes to be able to work on this equipment, which Bentley said is complicated and technical.
“Our people wear this equipment every day knowing that it is kept in top order, and they wear it with confidence,” he said. “Steven does all of this extra work for no extra pay. It’s just something that he does. He has a tremendous work ethic and is a true professional.”
In addition to this service, there was an event in February that also showed Finlen’s character.
He responded to person unconscious in the back of tractor trailer. When Finlen arrived, the person was under cardiac arrest. Finlen and his team transported the person to grandview. While in route, the patient regained pulse. He was discharged from hospital one month later with no further complications.
“Although this was an incredible crew effort for success it was Steven Findley’s relentless care that helped save this person’s life,” Bentley said.
Finlen has been with the Hoover Fire Department since 2014.
Paramedic of the Year – Rusty Lowe
Bentley also presented Rusty Lowe with the Paramedic of the Year award.
Lowe, who has over 37 years in the fire service, retired in 2018 as the EMS officer and public information officer for Hoover. He was in charge of the training and education of all EMS personnel in the department as well as coordinating the EMS activities and special events.
“Rusty is an awesome leader,” Bentley said. “He is an excellent role model for our firefighters and paramedics in our department. He has been accredited for saving countless lives over his career but one event last year stands out.”
Lowe was providing EMS services at the SEC Baseball Tournament at the Hoover Metropolitan Complex on May 26, 2018. Lowe recieved word that there was a Hoover police officer in distress, but the officer’s location was initially unknown.
Lowe then witnessed police officers breaking car windows and trying to get an unconscious officer out of the car. The officer was under cardiac arrest.
The officer was defibrillated then transferred to an emergency room. He arrested and was defibrillated several more times. He was then transported to Grandview Medical Center and finally stabilized.
Now, the officer has no permanent cardiac damage and is back on duty.
“Captain Lowe’s leadership and quick action, along with his assistance of other personnel, no doubt led to a positive outcome to our brother in blue,” Bentley said. “I think this is a good example of how our city works together each day.”
Detention Officer of the Year — Willie Young
Police chief Nick Derzis presented Willie Young with the Detention Officer of the Year award.
Young’s job is to inform the jail staff of any suspicious activity among the inmates. He has been at his job since May 2017.
On June 28, 2018, he and another officer were collecting razors that had been given out the week before. One inmate said he accidentally flushed his down the toilet. This raised suspicion.
There was a search, but Young and the fellow officer did not find the missing razor in the inmate’s cell. Young and the other officer began searching the inmate and his roommate. During this search, Young noticed the inmate take the razor out of his pocket. The inmate later confessed that he planned on cutting himself after speaking to his mother and discovering she was diagnosed with cancer and didn’t have much longer to live.
“Officer Young’s awareness of his surroundings, making sure he maintains close attention to the inmates he’s dealing with, negated a possible suicide attempt,” Derzis said.
Police Officer of the Year — Brandon Harris
Derzis also awarded Brandon Harris with the Police Officer of the Year award.
On March 18, 2018, Harris received report that a teenager was a possible victim of a sex crime. The suspect was a youth evangelist in position of trust in teenager’s life. Harris was the lead detective of this case.
As the case gained publicity, more victims came forward. A total of seven victims came forward, and the suspect’s pattern of abuse went back at least one decade.
The suspect is currently incarcerated on charges from all seven victims, and he is awaiting trial with a bond set at $2.5 million. If convicted, the suspect faces up to a life in prison.
“Cases involving the sexual exploitation of children are some of the most difficult to investigate as they involve crimes the human conscious struggles to comprehend,” Derzis said. “Harris exhibited an extraordinary amount of compassion, patience, and determination as he went through the difficult process of investigating this case.”
Officers Cyle Cutcliff and Chad Logan were also nominated as police officers of the year.
911 Responder of the Year — Amy Appleton
Linda Moore, head of Hoover’s 911 center, awarded Amy Appleton as 911 Responder of the Year.
On Thanksgiving evening of 2018, Appleton was at work and training a new employee on dispatch when a police officer came over the radio saying shots had been fired inside the Riverchase Galleria. Appleton ended the training and took over the radio.
“Working the police radio, as you might imagine, became very challenging, stressful, with numerous officers making numerous requests due to the serious nature of this situation,” Moore said. “Supervisor Appleton was maintaining control of the radio and was the primary point of contact until the initial event ended much later.”
Appleton has been a 911 responder with Hoover since 1999.