Recipients of Meritorious Service Medals shall have distinguished themselves by performing exceptional service in a duty of great responsibility of critical importance to the Sheriff’s Office. This is measured by contributing materially to the success of field or administrative operational goals. Guidelines for nominations are: substantial cost saving, increased efficiency, increased effectiveness, enhanced public image, improved safety of members, or technical innovation.
Sergeant Kimbra Wiegert
Sergeant Wiegert became the subject matter expert on the history of the old Polk County jail, and inspired other agency members to join in the effort to organize a Haunted Jail Tour for charity each year. Her idea led to one of the most successful and thrilling fundraisers that agency members and citizens look forward to each year. In 2016, the Haunted Jail Tour was open for two weekends, and raised over $16,000.
Among a myriad of other responsibilities as a supervisor in the Records Management Bureau, Jennifer McCain oversees the agency photo lab. During the fiscal year 2014-2015, Jennifer carefully evaluated the processes and equipment at the photo lab, and found significant room for improvement and cost savings.
Sergeant Jeff Bellamy & Sergeant Zoe Vizcarrondo
Sergeants Bellamy and Vizcarrondo (who was a detective at the time), were integral in solving a sexual battery case, during which an 11-year-old girl was molested and became pregnant by the suspect, who fled to a small remote town in West Central Guatemala. Through their persistence and international partnerships, the suspect was located, arrested, and extradited to Florida, where he was sentenced to life in prison.
Sergeants Bobby Kirkpatrick and Chris Lynn, Detectives Jeffrey Bradford, Robert Mateo, and Maria Sorensen
In October 2016, 4-year-old Rebecca Lewis was abducted from her family home by an unknown suspect. During the next 48 hours, this team worked around the clock and without sleep, following up leads and tracking the suspect, who was positively identified as a man named West Wild Hogs. Hogs drove the girl from Florida to Georgia and then Tennessee. PCSO investigators worked with the FBI and other agencies to have Amber Alerts issued in each state where Hogs was spotted. Thanks to these alerts, a convenience store clerk in Memphis recognized the suspect and saw him with Rebecca, and called authorities. Thanks to the relentless efforts to locate West Wild Hogs, he was taken into custody before he could harm the little girl. Rebecca was reunited with her grateful family, and Hogs indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s office and is awaiting trial on federal kidnapping charges.
Sergeants Chris Lynn, Chris Katsoulis, Chris Mason, and Detectives Chris Broadhead, Jeff Clark, James Hall, and Tonya Wright
In January 2016, these members who are assigned to the Criminal Investigations Division investigated a shooting in Lakeland that injured one person and resulted in three homicides. Early in the investigation, the surviving victim provided key details that helped identify the suspect vehicle, a U-Haul van that was rented in Miami. The team worked with Miami police agencies and the U.S. Marshals Service, to find and process the van. The evidence found in the van resulted in arrest warrants and search warrants being issued, and ultimately, the arrests of four suspects. Based on the tireless investigation and dogged determination of these members, all four suspects were indicted by a Polk County Grand Jury on multiple violent felonies.
Lieutenant Greg Goreck, Sergeant Mike Bissett, Deputies Kevin Bradley, Daniel Gunnoe, David Hooyman, Ralph Marshall, Robert Mendez, and Angelo Rivera, and Lynda Hall, Kimberly Kinsley, Paula Maney, Michele Rhoden
Based on an in-depth investigation by this tireless team, Gary Carroll was arrested nine months after the hit-and-run crash that killed Eric Pope, who was riding home from work on his bicycle. The suspect was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in state prison. For their diligent and thorough efforts investigating this hit-and-run case, everyone on this team was awarded a Meritorious Service Medal.
Lieutenant Jill Seymour, Sergeant Andrew Beymer, Deputies Adam Austin, Joseph Clanton, Brian Cogswell, John Marion, Robert Mateo, Alysia O’Dell, Ruben Rodgers, Ruben Rodgers, and Jessee Winberry
These members of the Gang Resistance Intervention Program, or GRIP, have increased the effectiveness of law enforcement services throughout the Polk County School district, as evidenced by the decrease in discipline and the individual students who have substantially improved their academic performance. Their efforts were widely acclaimed by school board members, district staff and administrators, parents, and students; and the unit was recognized by the media and Florida Gang Investigators Association. For their innovative efforts in the creation of a highly successful program, they were awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.
Deputy Sheriff Steve Theriac
In 2016, Deputy Theriac personally coordinated several events that made a positive impact on Polk County’s citizens, especially children. He took high school seniors to downtown Tampa for dinner and to a Tampa Bay Lightning hockey game. He orchestrated a game day experience for Lake Wales High School basketball players with the Orlando Magic basketball team. He was instrumental in providing refurbished bicycles to the young and old through a partnership with a bicycle mission. And at Christmas, Deputy Theriac secured $5,000.00 worth of donations to provide Christmas gifts for 46 children and food for 13 families in the Eloise area. Deputy Sheriff Theriac is committed to improving the quality of life for the citizens we serve, while enhancing the agency’s image.
Detectives Barry Schnable and Joseph Turnage
In July 2016, the PCSO Computer Crimes Unit executed a search warrant at the home of child pornography suspect James Ballone. Of the 52 devices seized, detectives found 14 that contained over 4,500 images and videos depicting child pornography. Detectives Turnage and Schnable processed the evidence and painstakingly identified two live victims who were being sexually abused by Ballone. Both detectives worked tirelessly to ensure every victim was identified, and every possible charge was filed against this vile suspect. Through their efforts, Ballone pled guilty to all charges and was sentenced to life in prison.
Lieutenant Robert Sessions and Monica Villanueva
On February 2017, Polk Sheriff’s Charities, Inc., under the leadership of Lt. Sessions and administrative help from Monica Villanueva, held its third annual Jeepin’ With Judd event at Clear Springs Farms. These two members selflessly dedicated their time and energy to every facet of Jeepin’ With Judd. They were part of a motivated work team, who were equally as devoted. With a total of 1,400 Jeeps participating, this year’s Jeepin’ With Judd event raised approximately $130,000!
Lieutenant Greg Goreck
In March 2015, the agency was looking for options to streamline and automate the search warrant process. At that time, the process was time-consuming, inefficient, and not in keeping with the latest technology. Lieutenant Goreck began researching vendors, setting up demonstrations, and establishing relationships with the impacted agencies. After many months of tenacious work, Lieutenant Goreck identified the need and benefit for an automated electronic warrant process, and marketed it to our agency partners. In January 2016, Docusign was selected and implemented as our new e-warrants vendor. Docusign will save thousands of dollars in staffing costs for all involved partners. It has already resulted in significant time savings and better overall internal and external customer service. Through Docusign, a process that used to take between four and six hours can now be accomplished in less than one hour.
Sergeant Glenn Ferrell
Sergeant Ferrell volunteered to design and construct a natural fountain using flowing water as a symbol of life at the PCSO memorial in front of the Sheriff’s Operations Center. Since 2009, he has dedicated over 140 volunteer hours on the project. This living memorial serves as a reminder that we honor our law enforcement members for how they lived their lives in service to others. The design of this memorial fountain instills a peaceful atmosphere and the moving water serves as a natural calming influence, relaxing all who visit there. Sergeant Ferrell hand-selected the 7,000 lbs. of Tennessee fieldstone for their color and unique aesthetic qualities. Since the memorial’s construction, he has given his own personal time to maintain the water feature at no cost to the public. This time has included after hours and weekend work troubleshooting mechanical issues, pruning and replanting, cleaning, and maintaining water levels.
In 2014, Francis Hart began researching the possibility of transitioning our fleet from gasoline to propane. During 2015 and 2016, hundreds of agency vehicles were outfitted with propane conversion kits and several propane-fueling sites were installed around the county, for a fuel cost savings of over $40,000. Additionally, the agency received $30,000.00 in tax credit since the implementation of the program. In addition to cutting costs, Francis’ efforts brought the agency to the forefront as a leader in the usage of alternative fuel by a law enforcement agency. He also took the time to help other agencies take advantage of the available tax credit.
Detention Deputy Joseph Hersey – see above in Member of the Year section
Matt Costine – see above in Member of the Year section