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LOPD Detective Peterson honored as Officer of the Year

by: VERN UYETAKE, 
Detective James Peterson received the Officer of the Year Award from Lake Oswego Police Friday for his work in solving difficult crimes. The award is the department’s top honor, one of 12 awards presented during annual award ceremonies for police.

To Detective James Peterson, the best part of the job is being able to help.

So when he ferreted out a fraud scheme earlier this year, he was most pleased with the phone calls he made to people who didn't even know they were victims yet.

Those people turned up in a list of approximately 30 victims who had their credit card information stolen by a prolific identity thief.

When Peterson told each to cancel credit cards, he said, 'They don't believe you until you tell them their credit card number.'

Talking about the case, which led to a felony arrest and a recent Officer of the Year Award from the Lake Oswego Police Department, Peterson said he was glad to be able to stop crimes before they occurred.

And while Peterson gave himself few pats on the back for the achievement, supervisors on Friday kept the accolades coming.

Peterson, 35, received the Officer of the Year Award Friday at an annual award ceremony for the Lake Oswego Police Department, held at the Crowne Plaza on Kruse Way.

The ceremony is the fourth annual awards extravaganza sponsored by the Lake Oswego Police Benevolent Association. The awards are judged by a committee of peers.

The Officer of the Year Award went to Peterson in part for his work on the felony fraud case. It also recognized his role in solving a rape case earlier in the year and honored his high overall statistics in solving crimes.

Peers say Peterson is a team player who does quality work, much of it self-initiated.

'He's the first to volunteer for any assignment, even when it comes at a personal sacrifice,' said Detective Kevin Webb, who presented the award.

Peterson said his success comes from working in a supportive department full of hard-working officers and well-chosen supervisors.

He is part of a four-man team of detectives at the Lake Oswego Police Department, led by Lt. Dale Jorgenson.

Though the detectives are assigned projects individually, they are part of a tight-knit group that shares support work on each case, writing search warrants, following leads and solving complex crimes.

As they do, Jorgenson said Peterson has emerged as a detail-oriented detective who has shown a particular flair for difficult cases.

'James is really good at complex, detailed things like identity theft cases, things that really require somebody to dig down into a complex issue, break it down, step by step,' said Jorgenson. 'He's done seven or eight cases that have just been phenomenal and very complex.'

The most recent fraud case involved tracking a thief who recruited people to work as cashiers at convenience stores, then gave those people a card skimmer to swipe credit card information from store shoppers.

The suspect later dumped those card skimmers onto gift cards and shopped. He also set up phony Web sites for high-end hotels and scammed the visitors who logged onto them.

From the records left behind, Peterson identified approximately 30 victims and enough crimes to prompt a federal prosecutor to take the case.

His interest in computer work is a strength recognized by peers and one that led to a recent three-week training in computer forensics. He is working toward becoming certified to examine computers.

Peterson, who has been a police officer in Lake Oswego since 1998 and a detective since 2007, said those training opportunities help him 'come to work, work hard and do the best I can.'

He called the Officer of the Year Award 'a tremendous honor.'

Additional honors at this year's award ceremony were given to 11 sworn and non-sworn officers in five categories: Outstanding Service, Life Saving, Top Shooter, Looking Beyond the Ticket and Police Support Employee of the Year.

Seven Outstanding Service Awards went to:

n Capt. Mike Hammons, for his role in procuring a state accreditation from the Oregon Accreditation Alliance for the Lake Oswego Police Department.

The organization, run by the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police, certifies police departments in Oregon based on 107 recommended standards for police agencies.

Hammons led the effort at the Lake Oswego Police Department to meet those standards. The department passed a two-day assessment to receive accreditation.

n Det. Lee Ferguson, for his handling of a case involving $47,000 in stolen jewelry.

Though the person who owned the jewelry was unaware that it had been stolen, Ferguson was able to determine where the jewelry had come from through his handling of the case.

His work allowed for the safe return of several items and for prosecution against the jewelry thief and a pawn shop owner that had melted some of the jewelry down.

n Motor Officer Gary deMoss, for securing the $3,088 in grant money that allowed the Lake Oswego Police Department to conduct its crosswalk safety details throughout 2008.

DeMoss was also recognized for covering daily traffic, responding to hundreds of accidents and making the most arrests for driving under the influence of intoxicants in Lake Oswego. DeMoss is also a member of an interagency crash response team that deploys to manage serious car crashes.

n Officer Mike Brady, for working with other police agencies in Clackamas County to develop standard police protocol during shootings that involve more than one department.

Brady has trained at the FBI National Academy, is a training officer at the Lake Oswego Police Department and recently served as an expert witness in a trial involving a shooting in Marion County.

n Three dispatchers from the Lake Oswego Communications Center, for their role in tracking a suicidal man last summer.

Communications Operators Terese MacLean, Barbara Ripley and Jeremy Hipes worked with a cell phone company to trace the man's telephone.

Though they were unable to save his life, they quickly routed police to a gruesome scene. Their creative thinking prevented visitors to a popular recreation center and a nearby day care from witnessing the death.

Other awards were also presented:

Austin Waltz, a communications operator at the Lake Oswego Communications Center, received a Life Saving Award for his decision to dispatch Life Flight to a patient who had fallen from a tree last summer.

Waltz received the 9-1-1 call, interpreted the severity of the patient's injuries and dispatched Life Flight without waiting for an examination from ambulance crews. Waltz decision saved critical time - and a life.

Detective Kevin Webb was honored with the department's Top Shooter Award for marksmanship. He showed proficiency in more than one range, turned out for all scheduled practices and qualified with a handgun and night rifle for the award.

Second through fifth place shooters were Officer Earl Hall, Lt. Darryl Wrisley, Officer Matthew Gill and Sgt. Jay Weitman.

Gill also received the Looking Beyond the Ticket Award.

Gill received the award for turning a routine traffic stop into a drug arrest that yielded six pounds of marijuana, $1,800 in cash plus scales, drug ledgers and bills and receipts for drug sales.

A new award, Police Support Employee of the Year, was presented to Community Service Officer Julia Warren for all-around efforts in supporting police programs.

Warren is active in crime prevention, wrote revisions to city code excerpts for police and created new photo identification for officers. She also represents the police department at neighborhood watch groups and provides transcription of interviews and other documents.