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Perham officer honored at county ceremony

Perham Police Officer Ron Smith has been recognized as an Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer by the Otter Tail County Safe Communities Coalition. Submitted photo

The Otter Tail County Safe Communities Coalition has recognized its Outstanding Traffic Safety Partners of 2013, and a Perham police officer is among them.

Officer Ron Smith, who has worked with the Perham Police Department for five years, was named an ‘Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer.’ He received recognition and a plaque at an awards luncheon in Fergus Falls on May 14.

Smith has been very active in traffic safety through his work with DWI enforcement, the enforcement of other traffic violations and his participation in a Toward Zero Deaths grant, according to information provided by the Safe Communities Coalition.

During his time with the Perham Police Department, Smith has become one of the top traffic enforcement officers.

Smith’s previous military experience and work in probation have made him a professional and well-rounded law enforcement officer, earning him the respect of the department and Perham community.

During the past few years, he has been acting as the Perham Police Department’s representative for Toward Zero Death grant activities, a role he seems to enjoy and to which he donates much of his time.

Smith joins three other officers in the recognition. Also named Outstanding Law Enforcement Officers were:

-Officer Tony Schmidt, of the Fergus Falls Police Department.

Schmidt started his career with the Fergus Falls Police Department in June of 2007. As well as participating in the Toward Zero Death program, he is also a member of the City of Fergus Falls Safety Committee. In 2013, he responded to over 530 traffic-related incidents with 330 resulting in some type of enforcement action. The department has never received a complaint about his demeanor.

-Trp. Corey Pausch, of the Minnesota State Patrol.

Pausch began his career with the state patrol in 2000, and transferred to the Fergus Falls Station in 2004. In that time, he has been a district leader in multiple enforcement areas including DWI, seat belts, speed and distracted driving. In 2013, he stopped a total of 1,003 vehicles resulting in 1,938 enforcement contacts (citations and warnings combined). He has received numerous letters of appreciation and commendation over the years.

-Sgt. Scott Wagner, of the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Department.

Sgt. Scott Wagner’s efforts toward DWI and traffic enforcement during 2013 contributed to traffic safety in Otter Tail County. Wagner received the DWI Enforcer All-Star award in 2009 from the Department of Public Safety, with 52 DWI arrests. His effort is continuous, and in 2013 he arrested 45 DWIs in addition to numerous other citations and warnings.

Other award winners recognized at the luncheon include:

-Outstanding Otter Tail County Safe Communities Coalition members Det. Jon Karger of the county sheriff’s department, Ryan Cheshire, assistant county attorney, and Rick West, the county’s highway engineer.

Karger was recognized for his work with the Toward Zero Deaths program. He has been a member of the Otter Tail County Safe Communities Coalition since its inception in 2005, and is also an active member on the statewide Toward Zero Deaths conference planning committee. He was also responsible for implementing and developing a comprehensive, standardized protocol for conducting fatality reviews in the county, which has been recognized as a best-practice model and shared across Minnesota.

Cheshire has been an active member of the Safe Communities Coalition since 2005. His involvement has helped investigators to recognize and address loop holes that might potentially allow offenders to escape prosecution.

West attends monthly coalition meetings and also sits on the Fatality Review Committee. He examines crash sites to identify patterns where multiple crashes are occurring at any given location, and assists with investigation of any potential roadway issues that may contribute to fatal and serious injury crashes. West has been actively involved with statewide highway safety planning and has been instrumental in developing a complex and complete highway safety plan for Otter Tail County.

-Outstanding Community Member Chuck Reeves, mayor of Battle Lake.

Reeves became involved in the coalition in November 2012, when the group sought to establish an ad hoc committee to address the complex issue of drinking and driving. Specifically, this group began the task of developing ‘Joyride,’ which gives patrons of alcohol-serving establishments in the Battle Lake, Ottertail, and Perham area a safe ride alternative to drinking and driving.

Once an initial plan was rolled out, Reeves immediately began working within the Battle Lake community to recruit bar/restaurant owners to get involved with the program. In addition, he helped to identify and secure financial support.

-Saved by the Belt Award winner Sheri Siira.

This was a new award offered this year. Because approximately 30-35 percent of Otter Tail County’s traffic fatalities include unbelted motorist, the coalition decided to highlight and recognize individuals whose lives were potentially saved because they chose to buckle up.

On March 8, 2012, Siira was involved in a single car rollover on Highway 10 west of Wadena. She had just dropped off one child at hockey practice in Wadena and was heading back to Perham for a swim banquet for another one of her children.

The roads were icy, and a high speed crosswind blew her vehicle sideways, causing her to go in to the ditch. The Suburban she was traveling in rolled one time and landed upright. The roof on the driver’s side collapsed in and down as it rolled, but Siira remained secure in the driver’s compartment, thanks to her seatbelt.

Though she ended up with 35 staples in her head and a concussion, by all accounts, she may not have survived the crash were it not for wearing her seat belt.