When Jeff Paden of Clarksville fought through thick brush to help police rescue a missing elderly woman with Alzheimer's disease, he said he didn't think twice about it.
"If you can lend a hand without interfering, I think, 'Why not?' " said Mr. Paden of the incident that occurred in woods behind his home last year.
Last night, Mr. Paden was applauded as he and about 100 Howard County police officers and citizens were recognized for their service to their communities.
The annual awards ceremony, sponsored by the Howard County Police Department, was held at the George Howard Building in Ellicott City.
All of the honorees had contributed to crime prevention or the safety of their communities in 1992.
They included a boy who risked his life to help police thwart an armed robbery, an officer who solved a Columbo-style mystery of a husband who killed his wife and made it look as if she had fallen from a ladder, a passerby who helped officers in a struggle with a suspect, an officer who tracked down a serial rapist, a resident who called police with suspicions that led to an arrest and officers who spend their spare time educating children about the hazards of drugs.
"Tonight, we congratulate the best of the best," said County Executive Charles I. Ecker.
Officers "do a fine job day in and day out," said Police ChieJames N. Robey. "But they can't do it alone. We need support from [citizens]."
The final and most prestigious award, went to Officer Bruce Lohr, 37, who was credited with helping to save the life of a state trooper in Harford County in October.
While Officer Lohr and a Howard deputy sheriff were driving home on Interstate 95 from a seminar on hate crime in Delaware, they noticed two men wrestling a trooper for his gun on the side of the road. The two officers pulled over, drew their guns and held the suspects until the trooper regained control of the situation.
"I love being a cop," said Officer Lohr, who has been on the force for 15 years and is assigned to the Crime Prevention Unit. He coordinates programs to combat hate crimes.
He said he enjoys "the lure of the unknown and helping kids."
Officer Scott Wichtendahl was one of several officers honored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving for the 69 drunken driving arrests he made last year.
"I'm honored," he said. "I've got no tolerance for drunk driving."
Guest speaker and WUSA Channel 9 anchor Mike Buchanan told the audience of officers and residents that police departments cannot lose the faith of the community.
Mr. Buchanan contrasted the "clean and honest" work of Howard County officers with officers in Washington, D.C., who he said lost the respect of residents when the murder rate soared and crime got out of control.
"You didn't do it with fear," said Mr. Buchanan, a former police reporter. "You did it with professionalism."
Officer Charles M. Gable, who has been on the force for 14 years, won the Outstanding Community Service Award. In 1992, he volunteered more than 300 hours to work with children.
"I take an interest in the kids," he said. "They need support."
The Civilian Unsung Hero award went to Arlene Stanton, a secretary in the Police Department's investigative bureau who prepares court documents and handles anonymous calls.
"I'm very proud," Ms. Stanton said. "I see the results of my work when the arrests are made."