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Blennerhassett FOP gives out honors for Police Week

West Virginia Treasurer Riley Moore, left, and Parkersburg Police Sgt. Beniah Depue, president of the Wood County Fraternal Order of Police lodge, placed a memorial wreath Monday at the Public Safety Monument between the Parkersburg Municipal Building and Wood County Courthouse in observance of National Police Week. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — Being recognized for a career’s worth of achievements by fellow law enforcement officers is an honor, but for Wood County Sheriff’s Home Confinement Director Mike Deem, it meant even more since the award is named after his father.

“I have no words,” Deem said, shortly after receiving the Gary D. Deem Lifetime Achievement Award during the Fraternal Order of Police Blennerhassett Lodge 79 Police Week ceremony Monday at the Parkersburg Municipal Building. “That’s probably the pinnacle of anything I’ve ever done in law enforcement.”

Before returning to the sheriff’s department last winter, Deem spent 14 years as a deputy and 22 years as a Vienna Police officer, along with working for the Wirt County Sheriff’s Department from 2017 to 2021. Parkersburg Police Sgt. Beniah Depue, the lodge president, said Deem “has worked in law enforcement longer than I’ve been alive” and that was not a shot at his age.

“There’s a reason we typically will do 20 years, then retire,” Depue said. “It’s hard on the mind. It’s hard on the body.”

Two officers shared the Charles L. Plum Memorial Award for police officer of the year, which was also voted on by lodge members — Parkersburg Police Patrolman M.E. Stewart and Vienna Police Patrolman Paul Polsley.

Wood County Sheriff’s Home Confinement Director Mike Deem, center, posed for a photo while holding the Gary D. Deem Lifetime Achievement Award, named for his father, during the National Police Week ceremony Monday at the Parkersburg Municipal Building. With Deem were West Virginia Treasurer Riley Moore, left, and Fraternal Order of Police Blennerhassett Lodge 79 President Beniah Depue. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

In May 2021, Stewart responded to an apartment complex where 34-year-old Rufus James Ramsey III had stabbed a 60-year-old neighbor multiple times. Police said the suspect briefly complied with Stewart’s instructions to drop his weapon, described as a meat cleaver, before picking it up and charging at the officer, who fatally shot him.

An internal probe cleared Stewart of wrongdoing, and the Wood County Grand Jury determined his actions were justified..

Depue said the woman who was stabbed told him Stewart saved her life. He also noted other people were in danger from the suspect.

Stewart declined to speak about the incident but said it was an honor to be recognized by his follow officers so early in his career. He has been with the department about two-and-a-half years.

Polsley is a K-9 handler for the Vienna Police who “has gotten quite a bit of drugs off the street with the help of his partner,” Ronin, Vienna Chief Mike Pifer said.

Wood County law enforcement officers and guests entered the Parkersburg Municipal Building for the National Police Week observance Monday. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

Polsley said he was surprised by the honor and gave credit to Ronin and his fellow officers.

“In all honesty, it really was kind of a team effort,” he said.

Pifer’s wife, Abagail, was recognized with the Penny McLain Half Unit of the Year award. Besides being the spouse of an officer, Abagail Pifer is a forensic interviewer with the Children’s Listening Place, assisting with investigations by speaking with children who have been in violent and abusive situations.

“It means a lot to me coming from this group,” she said. “It’s definitely a privilege to be a part of this community at home and at work.”

The Distinguished Citizen of the Year Award went to Wayne Novak, owner of Novak’s .45 Shop in Parkersburg. Novak said the business does a lot of work to support law enforcement, including designing and customizing weapons.

Mike Browning, from U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s office, recognized Vienna Police Sgt. B.K. Ingraham for his lifesaving efforts from April. Ingraham heard a report of a gunshot wound as he was driving into work and made sure there was no active threat so that first responders could assist the wounded individual. Ingraham gave credit to the fire department and emergency medical personnel who treated the man after he determined the shooting had been accidental instead of committed by an intruder as initially feared.

“They did all the work,” he said.

Browning presented Ingraham and the Lodge with American flags that had flown over the U.S. Capitol on behalf of Manchin, D-W.Va.

Wood County Sheriff Rick Woodyard presented a Life Saver Award from the department to sheriff’s Sgt. M.L. Cochran, who found a 75-year-old woman’s vehicle after it went off of Lost Pavement Road and came to rest 100 feet away and not visible from the road. The woman had suffered serious injuries and been pinned inside the car, with temperatures dropping below freezing.

“It’s extremely special to receive it,” Cochran said.

The ceremony began with Depue and West Virginia Treasurer Riley Moore placing a wreath at the Public Safety Monument between the Municipal Building and the Wood County Courthouse. Depue said that nationwide 617 officers had died in the line of duty in 2021, more than 60 killed by gunfire and more than 400 related to the coronavirus, according to Officer Down Memorial Page.

“This has been a pretty rough stretch for law enforcement,” he said.

Moore spoke inside and helped present the awards.

“You all are the pillars of our society, because without you, we can’t have civic society,” he said.

Moore said the phrase “blue lives matter,” a response by some to the “Black Lives Matter” protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police in Minnesota in 2020, should not be controversial.

“Of course blue lives matter, because they protect all life,” he said.

Moore noted his office works with law enforcement departments around the state by auctioning off old and inoperable firearms and sending the proceeds to the departments that had them.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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