Maryland Natural Resources Police Honors Officers at Annual Awards Ceremony

Officers were awarded for lifesaving action, exceptional conservation enforcement, and more

Photo of Officer Albert Leavell (center) being presented the 2023 Natural Resources Police Officer of the Year Award. Also pictured are Acting Lt. Col. Brian Rathgeb (left) and Sec. Josh Kurtz (right). Maryland Department of Natural Resources photo.

Officer Albert Leavell (center) is presented the 2023 Natural Resources Police Officer of the Year Award. Also pictured are Acting Lt. Col. Brian Rathgeb (left) and Sec. Josh Kurtz (right). Maryland Department of Natural Resources photo.

The Maryland Natural Resources Police held its annual award ceremony to recognize the achievements made by conservation law enforcement officers and civilians in 2023. The officers were presented honors by Maryland Department of Natural Resources Sec. Josh Kurtz and Natural Resources Police Acting Lt. Col. Brian Rathgeb. The annual event was held April 3 at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills.

“The Department of Natural Resources is proud to recognize the dedicated men and women of the Natural Resources Police who passionately protect and serve our state,” said Sec. Kurtz. “Our officers maintain the highest level of professional standards, integrity, and conduct, and it’s important to recognize those who go above and beyond.”

Eleven officers received the Award of Merit – one of the agency’s highest honors – for actions that saved lives on the water and on land: Sgt. John Buchanan, Cpl. Brian Chhaturam, Cpl. Mark Greef, Cpl. Christopher Stancliff, Cpl. Brian Hunt, Acting Sgt. Mark Miller, Officer David Deems, Officer Christian Helwig, Officer Joseph Markiewicz, Officer Nicholas Letts, Officer Morgan Morris, and Officer Andrew Cummins.

Photo of Cpl. Brian Hunt, A/Sgt. Mark Miller, and Ofc. Andrew Cummins receiving an Award of Merit; Suzanne Weber and Ranger Tyler Walker receiving a Superintendent's Letter of Appreciation. Also pictured A/Ltc. Brian Rathgeb (left), Ranger Rachel Temby (second from left), Park Service Director Angela Crenshaw (third from left) and Sec. Josh Kurtz (right).

Cpl. Brian Hunt, Acting Sgt. Mark Miller, Officer Andrew Cummins, Suzanne Weber, and Ranger Tyler Walker receive awards for lifesaving action at Sandy Point State Park. Department of Natural Resources Photo.

Buchanan, Stancliff, Greef, Morris, and Helwig were honored for their actions locating and rescuing an injured mountain biker in Patapsco Valley State Park.

Hunt, Cummins, and Miller – as well as Ranger Tyler Walker and Suzanne Weber of the Park Service – were honored for the rescue of a wheelchair-bound woman in the freezing water at Sandy Point State Park.

Chhaturam, Letts, Markiewicz, and Deems were honored for their response at Gunpowder Falls State Park, disarming and apprehending suspects when gunshots and screams were heard by park visitors.

“I am proud to acknowledge the heroic actions of our officers and recognize them for the work they do to maintain the high standards of this agency,” said Acting Lt. Col. Rathgeb. “The countless contributions from uniformed officers to civilians in our department do not go unnoticed. Their work is critical in conserving our natural resources and safeguarding the public on all Maryland waterways and lands.”

Officer Albert Leavell, assigned to the Southern Region, was named the 2023 Officer of the Year for his rigorous pursuit of violators of Maryland’s wildlife laws. Leavell’s efforts exposed multiple deer and geese poachers throughout the past year, while his mentorship and guidance of fellow officers stood out among those in the conservation community.

Cpl. Craig Wilkinson, who patrols the Eastern Region, was selected as Conservation Officer of the Year for his proactive enforcement efforts. Wilkinson’s work spearheading enforcement priorities contributed to the agency’s conservation mission, and his work as a field training officer instilled enforcement techniques in new officers, notably with a successful turkey bait case led by a mentored officer.

Photo of Ofc. Thomas Burt (center) receiving the 2023 Boating Safety Officer of the Year award. Also pictured A/Ltc. Brian Rathgeb (left) and Sec. Josh Kurtz (right).

Officer Thomas Burt (center) receives the Boating Safety Officer of the Year award. Also pictured Acting Lt. Col. Brian Rathgeb (left) and Sec. Josh Kurtz (right). Department of Natural Resources photo.

Officer Thomas Burt of the Eastern Region was honored as Boating Safety Officer of the Year. Burt prioritized the enforcement of boating safety regulations, focusing on violations that threaten public safety, like reckless boat operation and enforcement of the state’s impaired boating laws.  Additionally, Burt’s dedication to carrying out the agency’s community policing and education mission demonstrates his dedication to boating enforcement.

Acting Lt. Bryan Hughes received the Support Services Officer of the Year Award for his contributions and dedication to improving the Supply and Maintenance Unit. These changes help contribute to the agency’s efficiency as a whole.

The Safety Education and Outreach Unit received the Toys for Tots Toy Collection Award for gathering the most toys to donate to families in need during this past holiday season.

Bonnie Norfolk, who works in the NRP Human Resources Section, was awarded the Civilian Employee Award for her outstanding work, dedication, and commitment to employee relations.

Cpl. Vincent Artrip was awarded the Fishing and Boating Services Officer of the Year, presented by DNR Fishing and Boating Services. Artrip prioritized education and enforcement of offshore and commercial fisheries regulations and significantly contributed to NRP’s boating safety mission through strict enforcement of the state’s boating laws and regulations.

Lt. James Satterfield was awarded the Maryland Park Service NRP Officer of the Year Award. As a commander who oversees law enforcement across numerous state parks, Satterfield remains dedicated to working alongside Maryland Park Service and enhancing collaboration across DNR units.

Five officers were honored with a Superintendent’s Commendation: Cpl. Tony Deepree, Cpl. Andrew Shaw, Officer Rob Wood, Officer Joseph Hambrick, and Officer Charles Faith.

Deepree and Wood – as well as Cadet Sean Peterson – responded to a personal watercraft collision and rescued a man with severe leg trauma, applying a tourniquet and getting the patient to EMS in critical time. Hambrick discovered a distressed woman struggling in the Wicomico River, assisting EMS with her rescue. Shaw was honored twice, for locating and assisting an exhausted woman clinging to a pool float that drifted from shore towards the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, as well as performing CPR and coordinating EMS response with a man on a commercial vessel. On Christmas Day, Faith contacted the driver of a suspicious vehicle and determined the individual was suffering from a mental health emergency. Faith assured the person got critical help, preventing a potential suicide. Later the individual said he felt that Faith was “an angel on Earth for him that night.”

Additional photos of the event are available online.

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