Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Announces 2021 Congressional Law Enforcement Awards

Sep 7, 2021
Press Release
61 Awards Presented to Local Law Enforcement Officials

BRADENTON – Congressman Vern Buchanan today announced the winners of his Congressional District Law Enforcement Awards. Buchanan established the awards ten years ago to give special recognition to law enforcement officers and departments in Manatee, Sarasota and Hillsborough counties for exceptional achievement. The winners were selected by an independent panel of current and retired law enforcement personnel organized by Buchanan. 

Law enforcement is a noble and demanding profession that requires sacrifice, courage and a dedication to serve others,” Buchanan said. “Every day, brave men and women put themselves in harm’s way to enforce our laws and protect the public. They deserve our gratitude and respect. I believe these awards are a fitting tribute to our officers and a reminder of the important role they play in our communities.” 

This year, Buchanan renamed the Career Service Award to the Gary Tibbetts Career Service Award in honor of his former field representative, Gary Tibbetts. Before serving in Buchanan’s office for nearly a decade, Tibbetts was a retired police sergeant who served for over 23 years with the Manchester Police Department in New Hampshire. Last year, Tibbetts died from COVID-19.

“Gary was a consummate professional and true public servant in every sense of the phrase,” said Buchanan. “He coordinated the Congressional District Law Enforcement Awards for several years and took great pleasure in the task. I am honored to rename the Career Service Award in honor of Gary’s enduring legacy.”

So far in 2021, 229 officers have died in the line of duty.

Above and Beyond the Call of Duty Award: Sergeant Aaron Bowling, and Detectives Tyler Ackerman and John Jones, Jr., of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

Associate Service Award: Director Matoaya Wimbley of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

Dedication and Professionalism Award: Corporal Christopher P. Slowick of the Florida Highway Patrol; Sergeant Dino Murges, Detectives Derek Pollock and Raymond Richter of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office; Assistant State Attorneys Dawn Buff and Courtney Hollen of the 12th Judicial Circuit State Attorney's Office; Lieutenants Adam Kaskey and Jamesa Tose, Sergeants Don Bennett, Sam Lutz and Ray White, Deputies John Albee, Mark Eve, Wida Law, Phil Lucia, Grace Luh, Dean Pappas, Teodoro Perez, Luis Reyes, Neftalii Santos, Daniel Schenck, Rod Stewart, Deb Stookey, Mark Truskowski, Ray Vleck and John Wenzel, Civilian Lou Wolf, Detectives Hayden Gallof and Brendan Keats, Chief Pilot Brent Wineka, Pilots David Bouffard, Chirs Laster and Stephen Shull (posthumous), Mechanics Arthur Grassia and Douglas Wenz, and Radio Technician Steve Duzs of the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office.

Gary Tibbetts Career Service Award: Detective Eddie Howellof the Sarasota Police Department; Manager Valorie Knight of the Bradenton Police Department; Major Daniel Kaufman of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office; Joseph (Chris) Panichello of the Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority.

Preservation of Life Award: Officers Paul Gagnon, Jared Lawhead, David Roberts and Cody Stanaland of the Sarasota Police Department; Sergeant Keith Noordzy, Deputies Keith English, Tyler Lewis, Donald Mays, Jacob Merrill, Deborah Perry, Jonathan Rubi, Todd Seillitto and Patti Smith of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

Unit Citation Award: Sergeant Daniel Weinsberg, Officers Sean Carter and Matthew Hughes, and Administrative Specialist Tina Shumway of the Sarasota Police Department.

Buchanan is a strong supporter of the law enforcement community. Earlier this year, Buchanan he re-introduced the Thin Blue Line Act, which toughens penalties against anyone who murders targets police officers and other first responders. Specifically, the bill would make the murder or attempted murder of a first responder an “aggravating” factor in death penalty determinations.

Ambush-style attacks against law enforcement officers have skyrocketed by 91% over the last twelve months according to a recent report by the National Fraternal Order of Police (NFOP).