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Sheriff Ben Johnson Honors VCSO Employees Of The Year

Date Added: February 03, 2011 11:03 am

Sheriff Ben Johnson Honors VCSO Employees Of The Year Image

Priscilla Ress
Public Information Office

 When your job is solving crime, stubbornness is a virtue. Volusia County Sheriff’s Office’s Employees of the Year, all share a tenacious streak the size of a Florida Highway.

It’s this never-say-never, refuse to take no-for-an answer dedication to the job each of the honorees have shown that makes them so extraordinary at their jobs from inside offices to out on the street.

They each bring irrefutable proof  VCSO employees are the most valuable asset when it comes to crime solving and coming up with creative solutions to complicated challenges.  

Investigator Aaron Blais is the Investigator of the Year. Using reliable information from an informant, he devised a strategy that ultimately brought down a major cocaine operation.

This group was dealing a large quantity of the narcotics out of a house in Deltona. Investigator Blais requested deputies to set up a perimeter, while he kept an eye on the suspects. When two people left the drug house he tracked the vehicle. Ultimately the car was pulled over and when the suspects got out one of them quickly admitted to having some pot in his pocket -- a little too quickly. A  K-9 officer was requested and just as quickly found the stash -- a kilo brick of cocaine (which equals 1,000 grams) another 174 grams of cocaine packaged and ready for sale and $8,000 cash. A search of the drug house netted another 103 grams of cocaine, a stolen firearm and over $1,000 cash. That's a total of more than $9,000 cash and more than 1,200 grams of cocaine. 

Sgt. Pat Leahy offers his congratulations on a job well done. "A large amount of narcotics was taken off the streets and several thousand dollars were seized as a result of your hard work and dedication. You are an asset to the Sheriff's Office." 

Employee of the year Madiha Saleem is an intrepid crimefighter. Her super-powers are her mind and a mouse. Information is power, and Saleem has harnessed the power of information, making it accessible, user friendly and easy to interpret. As a crime analyst she processed 536 different analytical studies, produced 415 maps, and distributed 97 crime analysis bulletins in just a year’s time. At the same time she was developing and implementing the "Crime View" mapping program, allowing any deputy or outside agency to plot and map crimes countywide, at the district level or down to the zone. She also developed the "Suspicious Pawn Report" and is currently working on a new program called "Threshold Analysis" to help predict emerging crime trends. 

Lieutenant Jim Morgan said when he nominated her: "Madiha is a model employee, works very hard and when you consider that she has taken on the above mentioned projects along with her normal analytical request, maps and bulletins her efforts are then considered outstanding". 

Cool under pressure. It is the trait that makes a good dispatcher great. That is why Claretha Smith is being honored as Telecommunicator of the year. She helped save lives by keeping a panicked, lost and injured victim of an airboat accident on a rural stretch of the St. John’s River on the line, giving him comfort while providing vital information to rescue crews trying to locate him and his passenger. Air One, a Sheriff’s Office helicopter was able to find the victims in the water because she got the right information while she  kept the caller calm and engaged. In slightly more than a half hour from when the 911 call was made, the victims were rescued and received immediate medical attention. She is described as a model employee.

Here is what the Sheriff had to say about Claretha’s dedication to the job:“The more pressure there is -- the better you get. Thank you. You are an important part of   law enforcement.” 

Sgt. Dominick Amendolare is VCSO’s Deputy of the Year. Sgt. Dominick Amendolare is a man with deep roots in his community. “Dom” uses his insider knowledge of the area, street smarts and direct connections to help protect his fellow citizens, and is always there to help his fellow officers.

A major arrest in a heavy equipment theft ring in the Oak Hill area was largely due to the information and new leads provided by Sgt. Amendolare, who was a constant resource in locating criminals who were directly related to the case. Sgt. Amendolare led investigators to them.  

“Everytime I need a criminal related to the case found for questioning, Sgt. Amendolare has either found them or lead me to them,” Investigator Blais wrote in his letter of nomination. “I wish I could tell you all of the times he has helped me, but there are too many to count.” 

Laverne Curry is the Volunteer of the Year. The ability to hit the ground running is a constant requirement in law enforcement. After years as a telecommunicator, Curry retired and returned as a volunteer analyst.

Less than a month on the job, and Curry created a bi-weekly Volusia County Retail Offender Report. By combing through arrest records and warrants Curry put together her report identifying potential retail theft rings and possible suspects.

With an increased workload and decrease in personnel, volunteers are filling the gap throughout the Sheriff’s Office.

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