Captain’s View

The heroes who stand among us

Gold medal of valor recipients
From left: SFPD Northern Station’s five gold medal of valor recipients: Officer Joe Everson, Officer Michael Tursi, Officer Patrick Griffin, Officer Matt Lopez, and Officer Thomas Minkel (photo: SFPD)

In June, the San Francisco Police Department held its annual medal of valor ceremony. Throughout the year, various officers are written up for acts of bravery and those commendations are submitted to a small panel of police captains who review each and determine which ones will be brought forward to a full committee. The committee is comprised of all civil service captains and above within our department.

At the full committee meeting, each write-up is presented, the officers involved are present, and a vote is cast for each event to see what level of recognition each deserves. Not all incidents are awarded medals, because there are very strict criteria that each must meet. This year, 31 officers involved in 14 different events were presented for consideration for medals of valor. After committee review, 23 medals were eventually agreed upon.
The first level of medal presented is bronze, and nine officers received these medals. Next is silver, and eight officers received these. Finally, six officers (an unprecedented number) were awarded the gold medal of valor, our department’s highest honor.

All of the events that led to this recognition involved a suspect who shot at officers, forcing the officers to return fire. Five of the six officers honored patrol the streets of our own Northern District: Officer Joseph Everson, Officer Michael Tursi, Officer Patrick Griffin, Officer Matt Lopez, and Officer Thomas Minkel.

To have six gold medals of valor awarded in one year was a feat in itself, but to have five of the six officers working at the same station is remarkable. The officers of Northern Station are dedicated to the citizens they serve, and these five are exemplary examples of service, bravery
and dedication.

On another note: Last month we had two pedestrians killed by cars in about a six-hour period (one at Steiner and Sutter, another at Vallejo and Van Ness). Both were very tragic events that could have been prevented. As drivers, we need to slow down; as pedestrians, we need to be extra cautious when crossing the street. Never, ever assume the right of way. As a “professional” driver, I myself have collided with two pedestrians during my career. Fortunately, neither was seriously injured, and though I was not at fault, I will never forget either person. As a lesson from me to you, when you are driving in the City, be especially cautious of those not in cars (bicyclists, pedestrians, wheelchairs, strollers, etc.), because they are no match for a 3,000- to
4,000-pound car.

Be careful out there!

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