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Thursday, February 22, 2024
Feb. 22, 2024

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Donnelly: Officers celebrated for timely, caring response


At 4 p.m. Sept. 11, motorists on Interstate 5 called 911 to summon help for a man dangling off the Salmon Creek overpass. Quickly responding, Clark County sheriff’s deputies found the man hanging by his hands. But he didn’t jump. A sheriff’s deputy applied his training and a caring approach to convince the man to choose life. Three additional deputies expertly coordinated traffic control. The man was transported to safety.

To the rescuers — deputies Chris Freudenberg, Ryan Preston, and Rick Osborne and Sgt. Jason Granneman — it was all in a day’s work. But to the organizers of Clark County Public Safety Alliance, it was an inspiration. So, on Oct. 6, with their fellow deputies, legislators and other community leaders in attendance, the grassroots alliance awarded the four life-saving officers its first “Angels with Badges” awards.

Jim Mains, Michele Rudi and I founded CCPSA in 2021 in response to an intolerable level of brazen crime in our streets, homes and businesses. Early on, we recognized the complexity of the challenge. Therefore, we have pursued multiple paths, influencing crime-related legislation, advocating for a planned local police academy, and leading the “yes” vote on Proposition 11, providing funding for public safety.

Now we want to bring the public into our program supporting excellent law enforcement in Clark County. We believe in the growing need to confirm moral clarity in our community. Too often, the mistakes and rare misdeeds of law enforcement are magnified in our public discourse, while the good deeds go unheralded.

Enter the Angels with Badges awards. On Oct. 6, at Clark County Sheriff West Precinct’s small gathering room, smiles and hugs abounded as local elected officials, former Sheriff Garry Lucas, historian Pat Jollota, Vancouver Police Chief Jeff Mori, CCSO “first lady” Michelle Horch and others mingled with the awardees and their fellow deputies. Burgerville Executive Vice President Beth Brewer, who had been alerted that the awardees would receive Burgerville gift cards, supplied the event’s snacks.

Master of Ceremonies Jim Mains brought laughter to the ceremony, suggesting (using colorful language) that the deputies owed deference to the attending elected officials for their budgets. Turning serious, he explained, “Our goal is safety for our city and county, our schools, businesses and homes. … We want to thank law enforcement who work miracles in our community.”

Speaking for families in the mental health community, I paid tribute to the timeliness of CCSO’s response. “Our worst nightmare would be that our loved one was on a freeway overpass at the brink of suicide with no one to help.” In this case “angels intervened.”

Addressing any skeptics, I observed that the existence of angels has never been disproven, and I surmised that when they do appear on Earth, a number of them wear law enforcement badges. In this case, the responding officers were timely, coordinated, purposeful and caring.

Following the awarding of Angels with Badges certificates, gift cards and angel wing pins to the four, Granneman spoke, asserting that the credit should go to Freudenberg, who assisted the man in crisis, and who, Granneman asserted, was responsible for saving his life.

Freudenberg, writing after the event, handed credit to “God and Jesus for putting the 911 callers in place that day. Also the deputies, WSP, fire, and AMR.” He credited fellow awardees and others for “coordinating traffic blocks and dealing with angry passersby yelling at the deputy for blocking his way of travel … allowing me to do my thing.”

There are plans for future Angels with Badges awards to law enforcement in Clark County.