Today, the Columbia Police Department held the 8th Annual Employee Awards Ceremony. The ceremony was followed by a celebration with cake and punch for the nominees and winners which was sponsored by the Columbia Police Foundation. The awards were presented in the following categories: Civilian of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Supervisor of the Year, and Molly Suzanne Thomas Bowden Officer of the Year. Each award is presented to those who have demonstrated exemplary conduct and excellence in performance of duties.
2016 Civilian of the Year: Debra Austeel
Ms. Austeel began as a full-time employee with the department in October 1994. She became the Station Master in March of 1998 and spent 19 years as the first face anyone saw that came into the CPD lobby. She answered calls, monitored dispatch, listened to the scanner, helped officers, and was tasked with having a working knowledge of every aspect of the City of Columbia. Ms. Austeel retired on March 31, 2017 after over 23 years of dedicated service to the department.
2016 Rookie of the Year: Officer Brady Wulff
Officer Wulff began with the department in December 2015. He was quickly identified as a "go-getter," highly motivated to provide the best service to the citizens of Columbia. In every interaction, Officer Wulff presents himself as a professional and embodies the type of officer expected by the Columbia Police Department. He communicates effectively at all times and maintains a sense of calm even in difficult situations. He has been a wonderful addition to this department and we look forward to working many more years with him!
2016 Supervisor of the Year: Sgt. Jeff Rukstad
Sgt. Rukstad began his career with the department in November 1999. He was promoted to Sergeant over the Patrol Division in February 2015. Sgt. Rukstad approaches every situation, no matter how difficult or chaotic, with a sense of calm - always considering what is best for his officers and the community. He is kind, compassionate, and courageous. He provides clear goals and expectations, communicates them effectively, and provides constructive feedback as needed. Sgt. Rukstad continuously utilizes positive reinforcement with his squad and is dedicated to motivating and growing the officers to be the best they can be. He is a tremendous asset to the employees of this department, and the department as a whole.
2016 Molly Suzanne Thomas Bowden Officer of the Year: Detective Ron Hall
Detective Hall began his career with the department in October 1992 as a Community Service Aide. In January 1998 he became a Columbia Police officer. Since then, Detective Hall has served as a Patrol officer, as a detective in the Vice Narcotics and Organized Crime Unit, as a K-9 handler, as a Police Training Officer, and most recently as a detective in the Criminal Investigations Division. In addition to his duties with the department, Detective Hall served as the Task Force Officer with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Among his many achievements, Detective Hall completed many wiretaps, pen registers and phone warrants to identify and investigate the largest drug distributor in Columbia. He has been responsible for the federal indictment of more than 100 people during his time spent with the DEA on behalf of CPD. Detective Hall consistently works to educate and be a role model for the officers of this department and does so with a positive attitude. He is a true asset to the investigative unit and this department overall.
The Ribbon of Life Saving
In addition to honoring the employees of the year, Officer Kyle Lucas was awarded the The Ribbon of Life Saving for his commendable acts on January 25, 2016. It was on this evening, Officer Lucas was driving home after his shift ended when he observed a vehicle swerving across lanes, ran off the road, and came to a stop. Officer Lucas checked on the driver of the vehicle and quickly ascertained that the driver was having a serious medical issue. Officer Lucas used his portable radio to request Emergency Medical Services through Joint Communications. He proceeded to attempt to make contact with the driver, however, all doors to the vehicle were locked. Officer Lucas used his ASP baton to break the rear glass, unlock the doors, and secure the vehicle by putting it in park. Had it not been for Officer Lucas' actions the driver would likely not have survived the incident. During an interview with the driver on February 3, 2016, the driver described Officer Lucas as a "Saint" and stated she and her family would be eternally grateful for Officer Lucas.
All award winners received a commemorative watch and plaque purchased by the Columbia Police Foundation from Tucker's Fine Jewelry and D-Sport, respectively. Additionally, each nominee and winner received a gift certificate from the City of Columbia as part of the Employee Incentive Reward Program.
History of the Molly Suzanne Thomas Bowden Officer of the Year
The award is in memory of Officer Molly Bowden who was shot while conducting a traffic stop on January 10, 2005. Officer Bowden succumbed to her wounds and died on February 10, 2005; she served honorably with the department for 3.5 years and was the first and only officer at our department to be killed in the line of duty.
We are very proud of all the nominees and winners of these awards. A very special thank you to our sponsors of the event: Columbia Police Foundation and Central Bank of Boone County.
For more photos from the Employee Awards Ceremony, please visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/columbiamopolice/.