SHOUT OUTS: A 12-year-old boy who sends baseballs to American troops and a veteran U.S. Marine who is now a police lieutenant – both from Washington Township – were honored by the North Jersey Regional Crime Prevention Officers Association this past week.
Billy Cook, a 7th-grader at Westwood Regional Middle School, was named this year’s Exceptional Citizen – an award that recognizes patriotism, the human spirit and “the best that our communities have to offer.”
Billy, who gets people to write encouraging messages on the baseballs, is “making a real difference in the lives of U.S. troops,” the association said.
For his part, Billy said: “I hope the notes let them know that we are thinking of them and the baseball helps provide a distraction from the serious work they do every day.”
The NJRCPOA also honored Washington Township Police Lt. Richard Skinner as its Crime Prevention Officer of the Year.
Skinner, a 20-year department veteran, launched the Washington Township Jr. Police Academy in 2000. It has since blossomed into the Pascack Valley Junior Police Academy, with about 100 students from the township, Westwood, Hillsdale and Ridgewood attending.
Skinner, who oversees his department’s Patrol Division, served in the Marines for six years before becoming a police officer. He is a founding member of the Bergen County Rapid Deployment Force, for which he serves as a platoon commander and chemical agent operator.
Skinner, who frequently lectures on Internet safety, also coaches youth baseball and football and is extremely active in the community.
Receiving the association’s highest honor, the Valor Award, were Hackensack Police Sgt. James Dalton and Officers Joseph Ayoubi, Franklyn Bay and Brett McCarthy for their “exemplary actions” while converging on a gunman who began shooting at them near Newman Street and Railroad Avenue on July 22.
All four returned fire, hitting him several times and ending what could have been fatal circumstances for police and bystanders. The shooter was then jailed on charges that include attempted murder ( SEE: Hackensack police shooting: What happened ).
“These officers distinguished themselves by demonstrating bravery, unwavering service to the citizens of the city of Hackensack, and the utmost valor in the face of true and imminent danger,” the NJRCPOA said.
Eric Kanefsky, the director of New Jersey’s Division of Consumer Affairs, received the Exceptional Service Award for protecting the public in the wake of Hurricane Sandy by deploying a team of investigators to fan out across the state and identify price gougers.
“Within hours, subpoenas were issued to these businesses and they were put on notice about any suspected price gouging,” the association said. “These investigations ranged from lodging, fuel, food, generators, and bare necessities.”
Kanefsky – and by extention his staff – was recognized for “important and diligent efforts to protect the public and prevent crime” following the storm ( SEE: Bergen judge OKs settlement dissolving bogus Sandy charity ).
Bergenfield Police Officers James Acito, Ahmed Alagha, Ramon Cruz and Michael Dymek were honored for rescuing an elderly family from a house fire the morning of June 2 “despite the conditions and the obvious risk of injury.”
The rescue of the residents “would not have happened without these four officers,” the NJRCPOA said.
The Crime Prevention Detective of the Year Award was given to River Vale Detective Sgt. John J. DeVoe for, among other reasons, his “education initiatives to protect children and families.”
“These projects have ultimately reached tens of thousands of children and adults throughout the northeastern United States by virtue of [DeVoe’s] affiliation with Internet Safety and anti-bullying campaigns started by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Computer Crimes Task Force,” the association said.
DeVoe has attended specialized training and attained distinguished memberships that the NJRCPOA said have “equipped him with the skills to promote community policing, crime prevention, and youth outreach in his local community and beyond.”
Most notably, he is an active member of the F.B.I. National Academy Associates, having been graduated from the F.B.I. National Academy in Quantico, VA, as a member of Session #252 in March ( SEE: River Vale Police Sgt. John DeVoe is graduated from FBI National Academy ).
DeVoe is also an active member of the F.B.I. Law Enforcement Executive Development Association, having been graduated from the Mid-Atlantic Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar at Princeton University in June 2012.
The 17-year veteran frequently lectures and speaks at various public and private schools and universities, while working at the local level to keep children safer online by giving talks and sponsoring activities.
It is “his involvement in youth projects that has continued to make him a cut above the rest,” the association said.
For instance, DeVote created the first youth Junior Police Academy in the Pascack Valley area, which he continues to run. It is, per capita, the largest JPA in the north region, with an average of more than 125 students from River Vale alone.
He is also a senior investigator with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Computer Crimes Task Force, for which he also serves as the educational outreach coordinator.
The NJRCPOA says it “has a mission of uniting police officers, security professionals, and concerned business owners in the common goal of preventing crime while propelling community involvement in public safety. The association is a collaboration of community policing, classic crime prevention, and educational awareness to help citizens and law enforcement fight crime together.”
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.