Portlands top cop and firefighter honored

by: David F. Ashton, East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs, left, congratulates Officer Robert Brown, center, after his award was presented by Commander Thomas Fulton, right, of American Legion Portland Post No. 1.

The American Legion Post No. 1 meeting hall on Southeast 122nd Avenue was packed elbow-to-elbow as the annual Friendship Dinner honoring Portland's top police officer and top firefighter got underway April 19.

'We present the 'Russ Lemmon Awards' each year,' Post Commander Thomas Fulton said. 'The purpose is to recognize outstanding individuals from our fire and police bureaus who make our community better and safer.'

The firefighter and the officer are chosen by coworkers at their respective bureaus, Fulton said. Those honored by Post No. 1 will compete for statewide honors from the Oregon American Legion, and if successful, will go on to be considered for national recognition.

Firefighter of the Year

'It's an honor to be among great Americans,' said Captain Robert Zavodsky of Portland Fire and Rescue. He talked about why Firefighter Anthony 'Tony' Snook from Station No. 1 was selected.

'Tony does not look toward rank or money - things that normally motivate people. Tony is one of those true firefighters who, day in and day out, is motivated by the passion he has for his work,' Zavodsky said.

Snook has become known as an apparatus specialist, able to fix nearly anything, including the six-burner range in the stationhouse. He designed and specified the equipment used in the department's 'Urban Search and Rescue' rig.

On the third-floor wall of Station No. 1, his captain told the veterans, there is a wall bearing photographs of each of the firefighters who won this award over the years. 'I get a special feeling when I walk down that hall and think about these dedicated firefighters. All of us will tell you that Tony is the sort of person that you would like to work with,' Zavodsky said as he handed the award to Snook.

Police Officer of the Year

Michael Crebs, commander of the Portland Police Bureau's East Precinct, was next to step to the podium to tell why Officer Robert Brown was chosen for this year's honor.

'Cops are often in chaotic situations,' Crebs said. 'Not only is he physically imposing, Officer Brown's performance is tactically sound. Whenever he goes into a tense situation, he brings calm and a state of equilibrium. He helps people feel that everything will soon be alright.'

Crebs held up a thick folder and explained what he found when he reviewed Brown's personnel file.

'There are too many commendations and letters to read,' he said. 'I pulled out a couple of items to give you a snapshot of this officer. Each of them tells a different story about Robert.'

Crebs related the story of a grocery store robber who held a knife to the neck of a clerk and demanded money.

'The suspect fled as Robert arrived on-scene. He tracked the suspect down, following him through neighborhood backyards. Robert saw feet sticking out from under a bush, took the suspect into custody, and recovered the money. This exemplifies his work; he loves to catch the 'bad guys.' '

Another example Crebs pointed out was this citation: 'He has the ability to quickly establish a perimeter, work with undercover officers, and work with members of the canine unit. (Brown's) outstanding work significantly contributed to the capture of suspects, and to the safety of the community.'

Over the past two years, Brown's work with canine units resulted in the arrest of 15 suspects for felony activities in different incidents, the commander said.

Quoting the great football coach Vince Lombardi, Crebs looked Brown in the eyes and concluded by saying, 'The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to his commitment to personal excellence regardless of his chosen field of endeavor. Robert, you chose the Portland Police Bureau's East Precinct night shift, where you've achieved excellence.'

After the program concluded, Chief David Sprando said, 'Considering the way that these individuals have served their country, it's like the top honor for us.'

Commander Crebs agreed, adding, 'This Post's hospitality and generosity is awesome. It makes me feel good inside to know that we have this kind of support in our community.'