Opinion

Some awards are far more meaningful than others | Editorial

Bothell police officer Robert Buendia was presented with the 2014 Crisis Intervention Team Officer of the Year Award on Aug. 5. - Contributed photo/BPD
Bothell police officer Robert Buendia was presented with the 2014 Crisis Intervention Team Officer of the Year Award on Aug. 5.
— image credit: Contributed photo/BPD

There aren’t too many industries where you can win an award for basically doing your job. Most people get to work, sit in a cubical, stand all day or drive something, do their best, collect a paycheck and go home.

I enjoy being in an industry that serves the community and informs the public. I hope that what we do at the Reporter makes our communities better and the public more informed about their surroundings. It is also an industry that singles out good work with awards.

I have been lucky enough and humbled to have won a few in my career. They are not important in the grand scheme of things but like any honor, an industry award makes the recipient feel good to know that third party deems their work to be exceptional.

But awards are only as important as the effort put forth behind the work, the impact the work had on others and who is giving the award. I only bring up my own accomplishments in a way to show how insignificant we sometimes find our accomplishments to be when compared to others.

Last week we received a release from the Bothell Police Department about an award a local officer received.

Officer Robert Buendia was presented with the 2014 Crisis Intervention Team Officer of the Year Award on Aug. 5. The annual award recognizes outstanding work by criminal justice personnel in the safe and effective use of crisis intervention techniques in responding to persons in mental-health crisis. The award was sponsored by the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, the CIT-King County program in partnership with King County Mental Health, Chemical Abuse and Dependency Services Division through the Mental Illness and Drug Dependency Plan (MIDD), and the Marion County Crisis Outreach Response Team (OR).

Buendia received the award based in part on his response to a call involving a suicidal woman. The woman was a recent victim of a sexual assault and she was very upset after finding out the case did not have sufficient evidence for prosecution. The woman had a gun and was making threats to shoot herself.

Buendia talked with the woman on the phone and through a partially open door. With some help from another officer, Buendia was eventually able to convince the woman to put the gun away and come out.

“Officer Buendia is an excellent example of how the skills learned at CIT can be applied every day to enrich not only our department, but our entire community,” Bothell police Capt. Mike Johnson said.

Buendia is one of many public servants we are all proud to have protecting us and our families in Northshore. The situation described plays out more than any of us would like to know and there are many times these events do not end well. The events leading up to someone becoming despondent enough to threaten to kill themselves can be as varied as the subject themselves. Rape is a particularly heinous crime and to think that the victim won’t get justice is disgusting.

But this time, in this incident, Buendia was able to use his training and intelligence to defuse the situation. And while the victim will have to find a way to deal with the trauma and aftermath of the original incident, she is alive thanks to Buendia.

But winning awards are not why police officers do their job and it was obviously the absolute furthest thing from Buendia’s mind at the time.

His award looks like what you would think. It is crystal with some nice embossing and probably glimmers in the light. But it stands for more than a nice moment in front of colleagues, something to put in a display cabinet or something to show off to friends. It represents a life saved. It represents a job well done in a line of work where a bad day can mean someone didn’t go home to their family.

For Buendia, the event was not just about doing a good job. It was about the person he was talking with.

“Officer Buendia did an outstanding job interacting with the female before and after she surrendered,” Johnson said. “Officer Buendia understood how to treat the person at the conclusion of the event and put the entire call into context which resulted in a very positive outcome for all involved. Officer Buendia’s actions this day may have saved this woman.”

Matt Phelps is the editor of the Bothell/Kenmore Reporter.

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