(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost today recognized the significant contributions of several peace officers, a former commander, a criminal intelligence analyst and one civilian as part of his annual Law Enforcement Conference.
“Law enforcement is constantly evolving, and the officers we honored today display some of the most admirable practices, setting the standards for officers everywhere,” Yost said. “I am grateful for their dedication to protecting communities throughout Ohio.”
The two-day 2022 Law Enforcement Conference — featuring training workshops on a range of topical issues, from elder protection to how to be effective and compassionate when interacting with individuals with disabilities — will conclude on Friday.
Each year during the event, the attorney general bestows the Distinguished Law Enforcement Awards, presented in seven categories. The 2022 awards and recipients:
Lifetime Achievement Award
Retired Cmdr. Robert Meader, Columbus Division of Police
During his 31 years with the Columbus police, Cmdr. Meader used his experience as a cop and a lawyer to become one of the most respected legal trainers in Ohio law enforcement.
After joining the Columbus department in 1990, he rose in rank to sergeant, lieutenant and commander, and eventually led the Training Bureau.
In 2017, Cmdr. Meader collaborated with Capital University Law School to create a first-of-its-kind curriculum that enabled law enforcement officers to gain certification as expert witnesses. Three years later, he helped create “Legally Confident – Tactically Confident,” a widely used interactive training course.
Cmdr. Meader has been an adjunct professor at Franklin University since 2007 and works with the Police Executive Leadership College.
Now in private practice after retiring from the Columbus police in February 2022, he continues to be sought out by law enforcement agencies who value his years of experience on the street and his ability to clearly explain the constantly evolving body of case law.
Victoria Allen Civilian Leadership Award
Auxiliary Lt. Col. William Sanford, Commander of the Ohio State Highway Patrol Auxiliary
During his 16 years with the Auxiliary, Lt. Col. Sanford has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to supporting the Patrol and to developing impactful partnerships to serve needy Ohioans.
As commander, Sanford is responsible for all statewide actions of the unit and its 100 members. He performs these functions as a volunteer, donating several hundred hours every year – all while juggling the responsibilities of family life and a career in communications.
He joined the Auxiliary in 2006 and was appointed commander in 2018. During his tenure in the Auxiliary, he has risen in rank from officer to sergeant, captain, major and now lieutenant colonel.
Along the way, he has always sought opportunities for the Auxiliary to serve those in need.
He has coordinated food drives supporting the Mid-Ohio Food Collective, Meals on Wheels, St. Stephen’s Community House and the Ohio National Guard. He has arranged for the Auxiliary to participate in Shop With a Cop events around the state. And for the past four years, he has partnered with Rock City Church in Columbus to buy socks for thousands of kids during the church’s Christmas shoe giveaway.
Community Service Award
Sgt. Taylor Beck, Oak Harbor Police Department
Thanks to Sgt. Beck’s tireless efforts, more people in her northwest Ohio community are now experiencing “comfort and joy” during the holidays.
Sgt. Beck started as a patrol officer in 2015, and she soon realized that a growing number of people in her community were struggling financially and emotionally at Thanksgiving and Christmas. To help ease their burden, she organized the Oak Harbor Police Department’s annual Holiday Drive, which is entering its fifth year.
With help from American Legion Post 114, the program provides Thanksgiving meals and holiday gifts to needy families, veterans and elderly members of the community.
Sgt. Beck spends countless hours calling families to see how she can help. But that’s just part of it. She also raises money, shops for toys, puts together gift boxes and delivers hot meals.
Of course, her compassion goes beyond the holidays. She stepped in to help a high school senior who was forced to move 30 miles away to live with his grandmother after the boy’s dad had suffered critical health problems. With money from the American Legion, she provided gas cards, food and clothing that the grandmother couldn’t afford so the teen could finish the school year and graduate with his friends.
Professor Scott Wagner, Columbus State Community College Criminal Justice Program
Professor Wagner has taught hundreds, if not thousands, of students who aspired to become Ohio law enforcement officers.
Since 1991, he has been a full-time faculty member with the Criminal Justice Program at Columbus State Community College, where he helped establish the program’s police academy and served as the commander of record for more than 25 years.
Additionally, in 2006, he developed and founded the college’s 727 Counter-Terrorism Training Unit to teach cops and military professionals how to recover buses, trains and aircraft seized by terrorists.
Professor Wagner has written several books and numerous articles. Because of his expertise, he has also been asked to help write legislation at the state and national levels.
Professor Wagner had his start in law enforcement in 1980. He held various positions with the Licking County Sheriff’s Office, Ohio Department of Liquor Control, Reynoldsburg Police Department and Union County Sheriff’s Office. He currently serves as a part-time sergeant for the village of Baltimore.
Mark Losey Service Award
Chief Deputy Daryl Wilson, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office
Chief Deputy Wilson’s accomplished career reflects his humble personality and devotion to public service. He made a steady climb through the ranks after joining the sheriff’s office in 1991, each step notable for the efficiency he brought to the job.
In 2008, he was promoted to major and, in 2019, to chief deputy – becoming the first African-American in the sheriff’s office to attain those ranks. Through it all, he recognized a unique opportunity as a role model. The moral of the story, he once told a reporter, is that “anything is achievable if you put your mind to it.”
It has been said that Chief Deputy Wilson “consistently performs beyond the badge” in his efforts to bridge the gap between the public and law enforcement.
As a member of the governor’s Law Enforcement Advisory Group, he is engaged in essential work aimed at eliminating bias and racial inequity He also continues to play an active leadership role in numerous community groups.
Chief Deputy Wilson has earned numerous awards for public service, including being recognized by a Dayton nonprofit as one of the region’s Top 10 outstanding African-American males for his community involvement and leadership.
Group Achievement Award
Capt. Megan Baker, Mercer County Sheriff’s Office
Detective Sgt. Chad Fortkamp, Mercer County Sheriff’s Office
Detective Carla Baucher, Mercer County Sheriff’s Office
Criminal Intelligence Analyst Jennifer Lester, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation
The secrets of a horrific 6-year-old homicide case were brought to light and the murderer brought to justice, thanks to this group from the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office and Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
The case began when bones were found in January 2016 near Grand Lake St. Marys. An autopsy determined the remains were those of a young man who had been dismembered by a saw.
Investigators were unable to identify the remains, however, and the case went cold until June 2020. That’s when BCI Analyst Lester connected the case to a 2015 missing-person report filed with Columbus police by the parents of Ryan Zimmerman. DNA from the parents would later confirm that the remains were those of their son.
In August 2015, Zimmerman had moved from Kentucky to Columbus to live with a man he met online. The man, it turns out, shared an apartment with his wife and his wife’s friend — Sarah Buzzard and Naira Jen Whitaker. The two women had an intimate relationship and would later marry and move to Indiana.
Baker, Fortkamp, Baucher and Lester tracked down evidence from websites and social media — and uncovered physical evidence — that ultimately implicated the two women in the murder.
In August 2021, the Mercer County detectives and BCI agents arrested Buzzard. Later that day, Whitaker shot and killed herself before she could be arrested.
The case concluded when Buzzard was sentenced to life in prison in January.
Officer Thadeu Holloway, Dayton Police Department
The scar on the left side of Officer Holloway’s head is a testament to his bravery and a reminder of the fine line between life and death.
On Sept. 21, 2021, Officer Holloway went to a Dayton housing complex to follow up on a complaint about a store customer who had passed a phony bill. The encounter quickly went bad when the suspect punched him in the face and tried to flee.
In response, Officer Holloway used a taser on the man, who fell to the ground, pulled out a gun and fired back. A bullet hit the side of Officer Holloway’s head, traveled several inches under the skin and ripped open a major artery. Officer Holloway was knocked to the ground but returned fire, hitting the man multiple times.
Although bleeding profusely and uncertain whether the danger had passed, Officer Holloway directed bystanders to safety as he stood guard over the suspect and radioed for help. Even after other officers arrived, he refused to leave the scene until the area was secure.
He was rushed to the hospital for surgery and released several days later. The suspect is awaiting trial.
In recognition of Officer Holloway’s bravery, the National Association of Police Organizations honored the nine-year veteran with the TOP COPS award and the Citizens Choice award. In addition, the Montgomery County Association of Police Chiefs named him officer of the year.