Minneapolis and Bloomington honor dozens for saving lives, nabbing criminals.
Bloomington Police Chief Jeffrey Potts gave a Citizen Medal of Valor to Andrea Tokar during the Bloomington Police Department Behavior Recognition Awards ceremony at the Bloomington Civic Plaza on Thursday. Eighteen people were honored at the event.
The police sergeant who helped put away the "Beat Down Posse" was named the Minneapolis investigator of the year Thursday at a Minneapolis police awards ceremony that honored dozens of officers for heroics in 2011.
Also, the Bloomington Police Department on Thursday held a ceremony honoring six dispatchers, three officers and nine civilians for making their community safer by capturing thieves, an armed shoplifter and a bank robber, and saving a man from a burning van and another man who nearly drowned at a hotel pool.
In Minneapolis, Sgt. Kelly O'Rourke was praised by Chief Tim Dolan for his investigation of the north Minneapolis Beat Down Posse gang, which was known as a ruthless and brutal group that robbed drug dealers, sold guns and drugs, and viciously beat members who got out of line. Its leader, Joseph "Big Joe" Gustafson, was convicted of racketeering, kidnapping, assault and arson. He was sentenced in March to 15 years in prison.
It's not the first time O'Rourke has cut a high profile. He sued the city of Minneapolis in 2009, saying he was removed from the now-defunct Metro Gang Strike Force after voicing concerns about unprofessional handling of evidence and a failure to follow basic safeguards. The city eventually settled the suit for $80,000. The Strike Force was disbanded after a state probe.
While with the Metro Gang Strike Force, O'Rourke was the lead investigator in a 2007 bust of the Rolling 30s Bloods, a notorious south Minneapolis gang thought to be responsible for several murders a year.
Others honored Thursday included Jeanine Brudenell, named Officer of the Year for her work connecting with the local Somali population. Other finalists for Officer of the Year included Lt. William Whisney and officers Tony Adams, Adam Grobove III, Todd Harder, Roderic Weber and Stephen Sporny.