Joliet officers honored at ceremony
By Brian Stanley firstname.lastname@example.org May 16, 2013 9:26PM
Joliet Police Officer Bill Otis holds his daughter, Maddie, 1, after being recognized Wednesday night at the department's annual awards banquet. Otis' son, Billy, 6, is at right. | Brian Stanle~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 18, 2013 8:24AM
JOLIET — The police chief doesn’t want to hear about overpaid cops.
“I, and the citizens of Joliet, ask you to make million-dollar decisions on a daily basis,” Mike Trafton told his officers Wednesday night during the annual awards ceremony held at the Jacob Henry Mansion.
“(When) you respond to a victim of violence, you become a doctor. You respond to a crime scene, you become a scientist. You respond to a domestic disturbance, you’re a a marriage counselor, an attorney, a social worker.
“With all of the hats you wear, all of the decisions you make — it takes a special person to be a police officer,” Trafton said. “You are worth every penny you make and in reality a whole lot more.”
The department presented merit awards to three units and 13 commendations to different officers for dogged detective work, risky rescues and large seizures of drugs and guns.
Lifesaving awards were given to Officer Jerry Austin and dispatcher Virginia Bradley for performing and instructing CPR on Austin’s own newborn daughter last spring. Austin brought his daughter onstage while receiving his medal, causing Trafton to brush away a tear. Officer Michelle Banas also was honored for saving a choking toddler. Banas’ three sons were also able to see their father, Tom Banas, recognized the other members of the narcotics unit as the Exchange Club Officers of the Year.
Officer John Byrne received the Award of Heroism for swimming to a man who had jumped into a lake to flee from police and pulling him from the water. The man later died, but Byrne, David Fox and Donal Karcz were recognized for their attempts to revive him.
Sherman Reiter and John Williams were quick-thinking, but kept their cool when they stopped a man who was threatening women and children at gunpoint during a domestic standoff in July. The man was shot when he allegedly turned the gun on Reiter, but survived. Reiter and Williams also were the VFW Police Officers of the Year.
Bill Otis expected only to be recognized as May 2012 Officer of the Month, but Trafton also publicized his conduct when a woman was viciously attacked by an armed intruder while she was sleeping.
“(It turns out) that victim is a personal friend of mine. (Otis) could see the trauma she was going through. It would’ve been easy to move on, go to the next call,” Trafton said. Instead, Otis reassured the victim and gave her a number to reach him anytime.
The woman has called Otis many times and told Trafton “he has been my strength when I needed it most. He has helped me through something that I don’t think I could’ve gotten through without him. (He’s why) I love my police department.”
Otis was given a standing ovation, but could only stand up briefly himself. Otis had to “wrangle” his five children, including his 1-year-old daughter, Maddie, who rarely left his arms throughout the ceremony.
“See, these are the kind of things he never tells me about,” Otis’ mother Marge said when the applause died down.