The way St. Paul police officer Thomas Tanghe sees it, police mostly get attention when they accomplish really heroic deeds or when they fall short.

On Tuesday, however, St. Paul police decided to honor those in the department such as Tanghe who “are doing great things every single day,” as St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith put it.

Tanghe, named officer of the year at the department’s annual ceremony, last year recognized inconsistencies in descriptions of events described by a shooting victim and other witnesses. After some persistence, he discovered the truth, along with a stolen weapon.

Tanghe, 42, is a 16-year-veteran of the department. He now works the midnight shift in the Western District as a patrol officer after he previously served in the Eastern District.

“I think most people could never truly appreciate the kindness, compassion, professionalism, dedication that the average patrol officer brings to most calls,” he said after the ceremony.

Maybe one of the few people who really does understand patrol officers is Tanghe’s young son Jake, who tells him before he goes to work, “I hope you catch some bad guys.”

Smith told the audience that they should be proud of their officers and their work.

“A lot of times they don’t get the recognition that they deserve,” the chief said.

Other award recipients:

• Howard Horrmann, communications supervisor, was named civilian employee of the year for his work helping to keep the department updated, including leading his team to design new mounts and wiring to fit the SUV squad cars and working on a solution when the downtown beat paging system was no longer operable due to an FCC rule change.

• Sgt. Paul Dunnom is detective of the year for his crime-solving skills on the department’s homicide unit. He was asked to be the executive sergeant when several investigators retired, and was the lead last year on three high-profile homicide cases.

• Officer Mark Blumberg was a finalist for officer of the year for his reputation as a mentor for many recruits and advocate of citizens with problems such as homelessness and mental illness.

• Sgt. Daniel Zebro was a finalist for detective of the year for his skills in a long-term investigation of the East Side Boyz gang that led to numerous arrests, gun and drug seizures and a drop in gun crimes on the East Side.

• Ler Htoo was a finalist for civilian employee of the year for his liaison work with the Karen community. He has taught in-service classes, made presentations to business associations and schools, and helped organize Karen youth groups and elder meetings.


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