Monday, May 11, 2009

KCPD officers named TOP COPS in nation

Two Kansas City Missouri Police officers are being awarded as the top cops in the nation at a ceremony tomorrow night in Washington, D.C.

Officers Christopher Skinner and David Loar are being honored for going above and beyond the call of duty by helping a homeless man regain his identity, get consistent income and a home. Their full story is below. The National Association of Police Organizations has selected officers in 11 cases from around the nation to honor in their annual TOP COP Awards. This is the second year Kansas City Missouri Police have been chosen. An officer from Skokie, Ill., is the only other officer from the Midwest to be named a TOP COP.

The Master of Ceremony for the 2009 TOP COPS Awards® is John Walsh; host of Fox’s America’s Most Wanted. Celebrities from many of TV's most-watched crime dramas like CSI: Miami, Law and Order and 24 will be presenting the awards.

The TOP COPS Awards® pay tribute to law enforcement officers from across the country for outstanding service to their communities during the preceding year. The TOP COPS® were nominated by fellow officers and selected from hundreds of nominations by an independent Awards Committee. Officers from the top eleven cases have been chosen as the 2009 NAPO TOP COPS®. This year, there are 33 TOP COPS®.

NAPO, a national law enforcement group, represents over 241,000 sworn law enforcement officers from 1,000 police associations and units across the country. Based in Alexandria, Virginia, NAPO fights for the rights of law enforcement officers through federal legislation, legal advocacy, and education.

Here is the story of what Officers Loar and Skinner did to earn this recognition:

On the chilly New Year’s Eve of 2007, Officers Christopher Skinner and David Loar responded to an alarm call at the Sears at Antioch Mall. The business was closed, so the officers went around to check all the doors. When they did so, they spotted a man sleeping in a hallway off of the underground parking lot. The officers woke him up and asked how he came to be sleeping underneath Sears.

The man said his name was Harold, and he was a 70-year-old retired truck driver who had lived in the Northland. He said he came home one day and found that his wife had left him, taken everything in the house, and moved to Arkansas. Without her income, Harold lost the house. He became homeless and went to a homeless shelter, where someone stole his wallet that contained all of his identification documents. Harold tried many times to re-establish his identity, but every government office he went to required proof from another government office of his identification. Harold had been homeless for about seven years when Officers Skinner and Loar found him.

The officers did not want to see Harold go on living that way. A week after their first encounter, on January 8, 2008, Officer Loar went to the Clay County Health Department and was able to verify Harold’s information and obtain a birth certificate for him. Officer Loar researched online what was necessary for Harold to get a Social Security card, and he discovered a photo ID, birth certificate and current address were required. On March 13, Officers Skinner and Loar rented a hotel room for Harold with their own money. He got cleaned up, and the next morning, the officers and Harold went to the U.S. Post Office to obtain a P.O. Box that Harold could use as a permanent address to get his Social Security card. But the post office would not rent a P.O. Box without ID, so Officer Skinner rented the P.O. Box himself and put Harold’s name on the contract.

The trio then headed to the Social Security office. An employee there agreed to accept Harold’s police record as the identification needed to reissue him a card. Officer Loar then asked whether Harold was due any Social Security benefits. The staff checked and saw that he was eligible for benefits but had never applied for any. He said he had tried to apply but had been unable to since his identification had been stolen. The Social Security staff determined that Harold was owed a lump sum back paycheck of more than $9,800. In addition to that, he was to receive a monthly, tax-free check of nearly $1,700 for the rest of his life. The Social Security staff also enrolled Harold in Medicare. The officers then took Harold to get his state-issued photo ID.

Officers Skinner and Loar then found an affordable one-bedroom apartment for Harold and negotiated a discounted rent with the landlord. But the landlord first wanted to replace the carpet, flooring, appliances and fixtures for Harold. That meant the apartment wouldn’t be ready for a week. Harold was prepared to go back to sleep underneath Sears during this time, but when the officers dropped him off, they found that someone had taken all of Harold’s things, including his bedding, coats and clothes. So the officers, again with their own money, paid for Harold to stay in a hotel room for the next week and bought him food. They also gave him some of their coats and clothes and stopped by the hotel several times that week to check on him. During this time, Officer Loar obtained furniture for Harold.

Officer Skinner picked up Harold’s $9,800 Social Security check from the P.O. Box on March 22. He delivered it to Harold and took him to a bank to set up a checking and savings account.

The officers continued to check on Harold to ensure he was doing well in his first real home in seven years. On April 4, Harold left them a message asking them to come by his apartment. They came the next day, and Harold handed them $450. They asked what it was for. Harold said he had kept track of everything the officers had spent on him, and now that he was self-sufficient, he wanted to reimburse them.

Sergeant Bret Whitworth said the officers exemplified and redefined the critical values of the police department. He said, “They selflessly utilized their own time and resources and refused to be deterred when roadblocks presented themselves.”