Chief John Harrington has talked a lot about community policing since taking the helm at the Metro Transit Police Department.
Officer Leonard Mitchell has taken it to heart. And for that, he was recognized as Metro Transit’s 2015 Officer of the Year. The award was presented at the department’s annual awards ceremony on March 31.
“From the day I was sworn in, the Chief has preached about community policing and that’s what I’ve tried to live up to,” Mitchell said after the ceremony. “Treat people with respect – that’s all I do and it’s working for me.”
Mitchell joined the Metro Transit Police Department in July 2013. He’s worked along the METRO Green Line corridor, in downtown St. Paul and was one of the first officers to work a new beat on St. Paul’s East Side. Mitchell is now a patrol officer in Minneapolis.
Harrington said several community leaders had contacted him about Mitchell’s efforts, describing him as one of the most visible and respected officers they’d encountered in recent years.
“This is exactly the kind of cop we want – someone who is committed to service and protection,” Harrington said.
A graduate of Hibbing Community College, Mitchell is a member of the National Black Police Association and served on Metro Transit’s committee on the President’s Report on 21st Century Policing (the report provides recommendations for how law enforcement can better engage with the community). He is also active in the development of a new program that will pair teenagers with Metro Transit officers.
Mitchell was one of several officers recognized at the annual awards.
> Officer Santiago Rodriguez received the Timothy Bowe Memorial Award, presented annually to a part-time officer who displays exceptional professionalism and dedication. Rodriguez is a 14-year veteran of the St. Paul Police Department and has worked with Metro Transit since 2013.
> Officer James Menter received a Life Saving Award for assisting paramedics responding to a male who suffered cardiac arrest on a light-rail vehicle in St. Paul.
> Beverly Cayetano, Linda Meyer, Diana White, Dana Jabs and Elaine Warren were recognized for organizing the department’s criminal database. By standardizing the department’s record-keeping system and entering 7,000 backlogged cases, the department complies with FBI standards and can more easily track the type and frequency of crimes.
In addition to these awards, 16 certificates of appreciation 11 medals of commendation and 33 medals of merit were presented.
Officers received these honors for a variety of actions, including safely apprehending suspects with weapons, identifying and arresting a suspect involved in an operator assault and protecting a woman at risk of being trampled in downtown Minneapolis. Praise was also given to an officer who saw a child with a broken bike and purchased him a new one using his own money.
Officers who conducted the most fare checks, spent the most time on-board buses and trains and made the highest-number of arrests were also honored at the event.
“What these awards represent is not just the work of individual officers, but an entire organization that goes out every day and does really, truly outstanding work,” Harrington said.