Top Officer, Telecommunicator, and Forensic Scientist Honored for Their Actions and Accomplishments During 2015 & 2016
Springfield, IL – Illinois State Police (ISP) Director Leo P. Schmitz was joined by ISP command staff members to recognize the noble contributions made by sworn and civilian members of the Illinois State Police, government agencies, and the public.
The Awards Ceremony was held at Hope Church in Springfield, Illinois, and paid tribute to the acts of heroism and professionalism displayed by the men and women who were honored during the event. Each award recipient was recognized for their exemplary service to the ISP and the citizens of Illinois.
"The men and women of the Illinois State Police are dedicated individuals who are committed to protecting and serving the citizens of Illinois. Their professionalism and pride for this agency are evident in their actions both on and off-duty," said ISP Director Leo P. Schmitz. "We are grateful for the outstanding efforts and sacrifices of all of these extraordinary men and women," he added.
Among the award recipients were six individuals who received special recognition for exemplary service: Special Agent William B. Blackburn – 2015 Officer of the Year; Telecommunicator Specialist Cheryl A. Miles – 2015 Telecommunicator of the Year; and Forensic Scientist Mary Beth Thomas – 2015 Forensic Scientist of the Year; Trooper Alexander R. Pinto – 2016 Officer of the Year; Telecommunicator Specialist Karen L. Foster – 2016 Telecommunicator of the Year; and Forensic Scientist Kellen Hunter – 2016 Forensic Scientist of the Year.
2015 Officer of the Year, Special Agent William B. Blackburn
As a member of the Zone 7 Methamphetamine Response Team (MRT), Special Agent Blackburn opened 50 cases in 2015 and completed 70 criminal arrests. He responded and dismantled 78 labs, seizing 18,128.4 grams of methamphetamine on 38 occasions. He also conducted 18 formal and numerous one-on-one drug presentations.
Special Agent Blackburn worked with federal prosecutors on two significant cases during 2015. A federal drug conspiracy entitled Operation Centralia Crew resulted in 26 federal indictments and convictions on numerous drug charges. He also worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on a multi-year federal drug conspiracy entitled Operation King Pencil, resulting in the sentencing of a specific target to 156 months in federal prison on drug-related charges. As an expert witness, Special Agent Blackburn has testified in multiple federal cases. Special Agent Blackburn looks for ways to improve himself and his team while striving to promote their safety and the safety of our citizens.
2015 Telecommunicator of the Year, Telecommunicator Specialist Cheryl A. Miles
In May, 2015, the Pontiac Communications Center received a phone call from a subject threatening to set off bombs in the Ashkum and Gilman area. Ms. Miles was an integral part of the team that handled this situation. She managed all of the radio and telephone traffic for all four districts within the Pontiac Communications Center for over an hour. This effort allowed the other Telecommunicators to focus on identifying and tracing the caller.
Another example of Ms. Mile’s professional demeanor during high-stress incidents occurred on September 17, 2015. Ms. Miles again played an integral role in an emergency situation involving a suicidal subject. A woman called into the Pontiac Communications Center reporting an acquaintance of hers just texted he was going to commit suicide. The caller only knew the suicidal subject’s name and that he lived in Illinois. While the subject’s cell phone was being traced, Ms. Miles used social media and other ISP resources to track down the despondent subject at an address in Streator. The local police department was contacted and responded to the address. He was then transported to a hospital for an evaluation.
Ms. Miles is a valued and loyal employee who is clearly committed to her role as a telecommunications professional with the Illinois State Police.
2015 Forensic Scientist of the Year, Forensic Scientist Mary Beth Thomas
Ms. Mary Beth Thomas is a Forensic Scientist III in the Latent Print section at the Rockford Forensic Science Laboratory. Her dedication, integrity, leadership, and pride are demonstrated by her quality work and unwavering commitment to serve criminal justice agencies statewide.
Ms. Thomas not only possesses an exceptional ability to perform thorough, high quality forensic analysis on latent print cases, she does so with noteworthy productivity. In 2015, she distinguished herself as the top casework producing scientist in the statewide Latent Print section. Remarkably, she accomplished this while simultaneously assisting with a complex quality assurance project within the Forensic Sciences Command.
Ms. Thomas has an excellent reputation with law enforcement agencies, attorneys, and judges. She is a dedicated employee who upholds the highest standards while consistently providing exceptional service to the ISP and the criminal justice community.
Special Agent William B. Blackburn Telecommunicator Specialist Cheryl A. Miles Forensic Scientist Mary Beth Thomas
2016 Officer of the Year, Trooper Alexander R. Pinto
Trooper Pinto has continuously and successfully focused his enforcement efforts on high crime communities in the Chicagoland area. Trooper Pinto’s high level of professionalism and dedication to patrol duties earned Trooper Pinto an appointment with the District Chicago Violent Crimes Initiative Unit. Trooper Pinto’s hard work ethic combined with his tenacity, continues to be reflected in his unwavering dedication to the citizens of Illinois and the Illinois State Police.
Trooper Pinto has had many criminal arrests, including various arrests for Aggravated Unlawful Use of Weapon, and arrests for Possession of a Controlled Substance. In July of 2016 Trooper Pinto conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle he observed traveling over the posted speed limit. A probable cause search of the vehicle recovered a loaded semi-automatic handgun with an extended magazine which contained 17 live rounds. Inquiries revealed the handgun was stolen, and two of the vehicle occupants were convicted felons and documented gang members. Trooper Pinto’s steadfast determination to reduce criminal activity and curb violence has resulted in the removal of illegal guns and dangerous felons from the roadways and has undoubtedly had a positive impact on the citizens of Illinois.
2016 Telecommunicator of the Year, Telecommunicator Specialist Karen L. Foster
Ms. Foster received a letter of commendation from District 13 for her efforts in assisting with an officer involved shooting in January 2016. Ms. Foster is credited with keeping calm, steady, and focused while officers were trying to establish a perimeter and obtain medical attention for the suspect.
Another example of Ms. Foster’s professional demeanor occurred in May 2016. Ms. Foster was part of the communications staff who handled the radio traffic during a five-day manhunt for a subject who was wanted for an officer involved shooting. Ms. Foster displayed an extremely positive demeanor while assisting other Telecommunicators and sworn officers, including the FBI, with tracking this subject.
Ms. Foster is a knowledgeable employee and is well versed in her job duties as well as Department policies and procedures. She possesses the knowledge to handle work of the most complex nature.
2016 Forensic Scientist of the Year, Forensic Scientist Kellen Hunter
Mr. Hunter demonstrates leadership within the statewide Firearms/Toolmarks section by advancing the analytical and informational capabilities of that section. During 2016 he developed and continues to update electronic worksheets to thoroughly document the analytical results of the scientific examination of evidence within that section. Through this mechanism, all scientists within that section are able to utilize current technology more effectively, while ensuring compliance with quality assurance protocols as well as accreditation requirements under the International Organization for Standardization. Mr. Hunter’s approach was adopted throughout other sections of the laboratories and represented a significant advancement in the documentation of case information.
Mr. Hunter not only enjoys an excellent reputation with entities within the criminal justice system, but also among his coworkers and managers. His dedication to providing exceptional service to the ISP, the criminal justice system, and the community is recognized and greatly appreciated.
Forensic Scientist Kellen Hunter Telecommunicator Specialist Karen L. Foster Trooper Alexander R. Pinto