Orem honors top public safety employees
Michael Rigert - Daily Herald | Posted: Thursday, December 31, 2009 12:30 am

Five Orem Department of Public Safety employees were singled out last week for performing their jobs extraordinarily well.

At a Dec. 22 awards luncheon for the department, Chief Mike Larsen, Orem's director of public safety, recognized the group for going above and beyond the normal call of duty.

This year's accolades were bestowed upon the Police Officer of the Year, Officer Scott Spieth; the Firefighter of the Year, Chase Tandy; the Civilian Employee of the Year, Chris Sambrano; the Volunteer of the Year, Jim Barrett; and an overall recognition called the Baker Award, which went to Sgt. Orlando Ruiz.

"Most of the recipients over the years are pretty humble about it. Most don't think they deserve it. They tend to give credit to those they work with," Larsen said.

But, he said, "everyone likes a little recognition. ... People will work hard if they know they're appreciated."

Named after a family of retired local law enforcement workers who started the tradition and started a foundation, the Baker Award recognizes meritorious or outstanding service by an Orem police officer, firefighter or dispatcher, Larsen said. The Provo police and the Utah County Sheriff's Office also divvy out their own versions of the award.

Ruiz, currently a sergeant with the Utah County Major Crimes Task Force, has been with Orem for 11 years and couldn't imagine working anywhere else. He downplayed his selection as the Baker Award recipient and emphasized the teamwork that makes his crime fighting successful.

"I work with a great bunch of guys. They make me look good," he said. "I feel very honored and a lot of gratitude to people in Orem. To single me out makes me very proud."

Spieth, the Police Officer of the Year recipient, said getting recognized by his peers and supervisors is more than anything he could ask for.

"Here, in this department, there are a lot of people I respect and look up to who I've modeled my career after," he said. "To be honored by a group that I consider my mentors is definitely humbling."

Ruiz and many of the awards recipients said the best part of their job was helping others and making a positive difference in the community.

"I see what drugs do to people. We focus on the people that are making a living off drugs, making a living off hurting other people," he said.

Tandy, a paramedic/firefighter with Orem, isn't sure why he was nominated for the Firefighter of the Year Award. He suggested it might have something to do with the fact that he was late on the scene to the attempted rescue of a Stansbury Park man at Nutty Putty cave in November. Because of his compact size, he was one of the few paramedics who could negotiate the cave's tight spaces to get to John Jones.

"There's never a normal call for us," Tandy said.

Police officers and firefighters weren't the only ones spotlighted for their exemplary service to the community.

For the second year in a row and for the third time in almost 10 years, Barrett, a member of the Orem Police Division's Volunteers in Police Service program, or VIPS, got the Volunteer of the Year Award. VIPS workers assist police by unlocking car doors for owners, conducting traffic control and helping search for missing children -- essentially any situation where a "bad guy" isn't present, he said.

"I guess I just like to help people. I'm always there if someone needs a hand," said the XanGo security officer who moonlights with VIPS. "It's fun."

Just Tuesday night, Barrett assisted a woman with a baby whose car had become stuck on a hill in snowy conditions. She couldn't get home, he said.

"Our goal is to help somebody out every night," he said.

Sambrano, a community service specialist in the Police Division and the Civilian Employee of the Year winner, helps fill Government Records Access Management Act requests, files and sends legal documents, takes fingerprints and performs Vehicle Identification Number inspections. She said her task is to lighten the burden of sworn police officers. She said she tries to give residents the best customer service she can, and even if she can't provide the information they need, she tries to send them in the right direction.

And though she wears a blue and white uniform, Sambrano said her job is exciting enough without having to carry a gun and badge.

"No, I don't like shooting guns, even though my husband has taught me," she said.

Like her co-workers, Sambrano said there's something special about Orem Public Safety employees and volunteers. Together, they are a close-knit family, and she wouldn't want to work anywhere else.

"This job has been really wonderful. It's a half mile from my house and just a blessing to get. I love everyone I work with," she said.