By Joyce Ervin
Special to Washtenaw Now
Senator Rebekah Warren presents the Pittsfield Twp. Fire Department with a tribute from Gov. Rick Snyder at a recognition ceremony held on March 13 in Milan. The department was part of a concerted effort of many state agencies that assisted at a 50-car pile-up on Jan. 9.
MILAN -- A tribute by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to area first responders, for their courageous work to clear a 50-car pile-up that claimed one life and seriously injured others, was presented by Senators Rebekah Warren, Dale Zorn; State Representatives Jason Sheppard, Adam Zemke and Milan Mayor Michael Armitage officiating was held on Friday, March 13.
It’s often said attitude plays a big part in success. On January 9 in the midst of utter chaos, first responders, Capt. Sean Jenkins and firefighter Shannon Jenkins of the Milan Area Fire Department were the first to arrive at the horrific pile-up on U.S. 23. Through the snow squall, Jenkins said he looked at the devastation and said, “Let’s get to work.”
[ See photos from the accident ]
That determined attitude prevailed throughout the day as emergency personnel from agencies across Washtenaw County worked to save lives and clear the scene. Trooper Donald Pasternack, lead investigator for the Michigan State Police, used his first aid skills and stopped the bleeding of a severely wounded victim ultimately saving his life.
Zemke said in his remarks, “It was commendable how much coordination took place that day.”
Each agency had a different role to play, but they worked together like a well-oiled machine. Making the rescue effort more difficult because of the weather conditions, University of Michigan Survival Flight was unable to get to the location to airlift patients. The Milan Fire Department also had to respond to another multiple vehicle accident further south on U.S. 23.
Zorn presenting the tribute award to the Milan Fire Department and thanked the responders and their families that support those that respond to our needs.
“I’m proud of them and really appreciate the many agencies that came together in a short time," he said.
Fire Chief Robert Stevens accepted the department’s award from Zorn and said of his men, the day to day training was vital to their work. These men make a difference and, “I’m proud to be a member of their team.”
A special tribute, accepted by Milan Police Chief Gerard Scherlinck for police dispatcher Penny Turner, for the positive way she handled the situation that day and her dedication. In turn, Warren recognized Washtenaw County Metro Dispatch. Milan Towing was presented with an award from Sheppard for their work in clearing the site. Zorn read the tribute to the Washtenaw County Road Commission. Road crews were immediately dispatched to the scene with salt trucks and plows to clear the road. Director of Operations, James Harmon accepted the award.
In total 10 organizations and agencies were recognized. They were, Milan Area Fire Department, Milan Police Department, Pittsfield Twp. Fire Department and Department of Public Safety Communications, Michigan State Police, Huron Valley Ambulance/Monroe Community Ambulance, Washtenaw County Metro Dispatch, Washtenaw County EOD, Washtenaw County Road Commission and Milan Towing.
Following the presentation, a reception featuring coffee, cake and appetizers purchased from local businesses was served compliments of former Milan Mayor Owen Diaz, Councilman Brett Moyer and Hardwire Corporation.
The tribute read:
Let it Be Known, that it is with deep gratitude that we present this tribute for their courageous work to clear the 50-car pile-up on U.S. 23 on January 9, 2015. This horrific accident resulted in the death of one and caused serious injury and damage to many others. We are extremely fortunate to have such passionate and dedicated first responders serving our community.
On January 9, 2015 the accident on U.S. 23 changed the lives of many local residents.
But without the help of the first responders the outcome of this frightening incident would not have been handled as efficiently. The 50 vehicle pile-up was due to the dangerously icy roads and white-out condition that resulted in the death of one person and extrication of two from their cars, as well as serious damage to many other vehicles. A special thank you goes to the first responders for their brave service during this difficult time. They have impacted the community in a tremendously positive way, and we thank them for their service.
In special tribute, therefore, this document is dedicated to honor all the personnel for the selfless commitment to those in need they demonstrated through their tireless efforts to clear US-23 after the fatal accident on January 9, 2015.
Joyce Ervin is a freelance writer for Washtenaw Now reporting on Milan. She can be contacted at:firstname.lastname@example.org
If an American institution inspires public confidence through conspicuous, consistent progress over the course of many years, why seek to change or challenge its direction? That's the question for politicians and activists who denounce alleged "militarization" of local police departments despite their recent achievements in slashing rates of violent crime.
Numbers from the authoritative Bureau of Justice Statistics give some indication of the scope of the improvement. The incidence of violent crime reached its all-time high in 1991, and since that time has been cut nearly in half. The homicide rate was also cut at roughly the same pace, reaching its lowest level since 1963.
If any other serious social problem — such as poverty, or marital instability — showed similarly encouraging results we would applaud policies that might have contributed to progress. Instead, the American Civil Liberties Union insists that "American policing has become unnecessarily and dangerously militarized, in large part through federal programs that have armed state and local law enforcement agencies with the weapons and tactics of war." Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., enthusiastically agrees, decrying 1997 legislation providing local police forces with free surplus equipment from the Pentagon. But statistics show such programs have done nothing to slow declining crime rates, and might have even accelerated those improvements in public safety.
Moreover, there's no evidence that trigger-happy police use more deadly force because they're itching to try their new fire power. The number of annual police killings from 2005 to 2012 remained stable at about 400. Nearly all the tragic, well-publicized incidents of young black males dying at the hands of white cops occur when officers are isolated and vulnerable; none of the controversial recent shootings involved military style deployments with hordes of police in riot gear. Less than a quarter of all police uses of deadly force involved white officers firing at black suspects; in fact, a black male is 60 times more likely to die at the hands of another black male than to perish through actions of a white cop.
In addition to historic improvements in public safety for civilians, enhancements in training and equipment have lowered mortal risks for the officers themselves. During the 1970s, cops averaged more than 200 deaths a year in the line of duty, including hostile fire as well as fatal accidents, with fatalities reaching their peak (280) in 1974. Since that time, despite big growth in the number of officers patrolling our streets, the allegedly "militarized" police have proved less vulnerable to assault, with only 100 officers killed in 2013 — the lowest death toll since 1944.
Most Americans would celebrate this change if they knew about it because they view police officers in an overwhelmingly positive light. A June Gallup Poll asked respondents about their confidence levels in various institutions, and 53% expressed "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the police. Only 16% said they viewed cops with "very little" or "no" confidence. Among 16 listed institutions, the police finished near the top in public esteem, ranked below only the military and small business, and above organized religion, the medical system and the Supreme Court. Television news and Congress, by the way, finished at the very bottom.
These figures demonstrate the absurdity in claims that public sentiment now sees law enforcement as a hostile, occupying army. In fact, the popularity of the military — top-rated institution in the nation, according to Gallup — suggests not all Americans object to local police replicating the discipline and professionalism of our armed forces.
Even at a time of intense public controversy over policing in the black community, it's worth remembering that literally tens of thousands of African-American lives have been saved due to enhancements in police training, tactics and equipment in the past two decades. With black people making up nearly half of all homicide victims, no community has benefited more substantially from plummeting homicide rates.
As conscientious leaders look for new ways to make our cities even safer for people of color and all others, it ought to be obvious that police officers aren't the problem, and will continue to play significant roles in all future solutions.
Michael Medved, a member of the USA TODAY Board of Contributors, hosts a daily conservative talk radio show.
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