Award for Distinguished Service in Community Policing

Justice Department Honors Fifth Annual Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Community Policing

Awardees include East Windsor Police Officer

(STL.News) The Justice Department today announced the recipients of the Fifth Annual Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Community Policing. This year’s awards recognize the exceptional work of 18 law enforcement officers and deputies from 12 jurisdictions across the country, including Officer Tamrah Stepien of the East Windsor Police Department.

Attorney General Garland announced the award recipients in Atlanta, Georgia. Later, he attended a ceremony for three award recipients from the DeKalb County Police Department.

“The work of law enforcement has always been difficult—but perhaps no more so than in the recent past, as officers have faced a host of significant challenges.  The officers and deputies receiving this year’s awards demonstrate how so many go above and beyond, even in the midst of trying circumstances,” he said. “Every day, thousands of people who work in law enforcement forge and maintain strong community ties that are essential for ensuring public safety.  The recipients of this award represent quintessential examples of such critical efforts.  It is an honor to recognize them.”

The Attorney General’s Award recognizes individual state, local, Tribal, and territorial police officers, deputies, and troopers for exceptional efforts in community policing.  The awarded officers and deputies have demonstrated active engagement with the community in one of three areas: innovations in community policing, criminal investigations, or field operations.  This year, the Department received 185 nominations from 145 agencies, recognizing a total of 347 individual officers, deputies, and troopers.  There were 39 states represented in the nomination pool, covering state, local, campus, sheriff, and other agency types.

The work being honored this year reflects numerous examples of law enforcement officers working closely with the community to build trust, solve problems, reduce crime, and improve public safety.

Since joining the East Windsor Police Department in 2011, Officer Tamrah Stepien has excelled at her many efforts to build relationships with the community, beginning with her role as a school resource officer.  She became certified in crisis intervention training and has demonstrated skill and leadership in that role.  Stepien also serves on the Multi-Jurisdictional Team Task Force, where she has demonstrated her compassion and professionalism in rape crisis work and domestic violence intervention.  When Stepien approached her chief about pursuing a master’s degree in social work, he knew what a valuable asset that would be for the department.  On her own time, Stepien pursued the degree and graduated with honors, also completing 900 clinical hours and other requirements to become a master’s level social worker in the state of Connecticut.

In the wake of the tragic murder of George Floyd in May 2020, Connecticut adopted a comprehensive police accountability law, one component of which requires each law enforcement agency to design a means of integrating social workers into policing.  Because of Officer Stepien, the East Windsor Police Department is in the unique position of integrating a police officer into social work.  Now, the department is establishing a new mental health team that will be housed in the department and will be responsible for early intervention in mental health calls.  Stepien will lead this new unit, which will integrate the town’s Youth Services Bureau and work closely with the department’s school resource officer and with social workers from the school district.  The unit will also provide enhanced peer support in the police department to proactively address mental health concerns among officers.  Stepien’s compassion for her community, her training, and her experience are helping make East Windsor’s mental health unit a model for the state of Connecticut.

“I congratulate Officer Stepien both for her award and for putting in so much work to earn such an important advanced degree,” said U.S. Attorney Leonard C Boyle. “I also commend the leadership of the East Windsor Police Department for supporting Officer Stepien’s social work education and training, and for creating the mental health unit within its force. Their combined efforts will make the East Windsor community safer, and I am confident other Connecticut police departments will be following their lead.”

The Department of Justice works closely with national law enforcement stakeholder groups during the award review period, taking advantage of their expertise and experience to determine the recipients in a competitive nomination process.  The Department also works closely with its components, utilizing the breadth of knowledge within the Department to ensure a successful program that honors the exceptional service of our nation’s law enforcement officers and deputies.