Local employees honored tonight K-9 team member is Officer of the Year

April 18, 1996|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,SUN STAFF

Howard County police Pfc. Edward Sprinkle darted through the woods with his dog, Gable, on the trail of a suspected car thief who should have stayed on the road.

On foot, the man was no match for Gable. Soon his arm was in the 6-year-old German shepherd's jaws as the dog pulled him from his hiding spot beneath a trailer in a Jessup industrial park.

For such efforts, Officer Sprinkle will be honored as Police Officer of the Year at 7 o'clock tonight at the sixth annual Community Awards night of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce.

At least 23 other county employees from the sheriff's office, the Fire Department, the state police and the county school system will be recognized at the dinner at Turf Valley Country Club in Ellicott City. Apple Ford, NationsBank and The Baltimore Sun are sponsors.

Officer Sprinkle, a Howard police officer for seven years, said he had not expected an award. He and Gable just try to make the streets safer, he said.

"It's nice," Officer Sprinkle said. "It lets you know you are doing the right thing."

He said the award is partly his dog's. Gable's sensitive nose has helped catch 31 suspects in the two years they've worked as a team, he said.

During that time, the officer said he has never had to fire his gun. And the only time that Gable has had to use his powerful jaws was when a suspect refused to surrender, Officer Sprinkle said.

As Officer Sprinkle accepts his plaque tonight, Gable will be given a large bone wrapped with a red bow. The dog lives with Officer Sprinkle, his wife and their 2-year-old son in Columbia.

Four days a week, the team works from 8 p.m. to about 5: 30 They are called to search for robbers, burglars and car thieves -- who usually leave trails for Gable to follow.

"The excitement of it is the thrill of the chase," Officer Sprinkle said.

Between calls, the officer trains Gable. Searches of buildings are sometimes triggered by security alarms or the pair hunts for suspects fleeing crimes on foot.

The most frustrating cases are when suspects flee in a vehicle, leaving no permanent scent for Gable to find.

Officer Sprinkle said their work is not all catching offenders. One of the most rewarding parts of the job is finding missing people and returning them to safety, he said.

Officer Sprinkle's quick thinking also has saved suicidal people and runaways, according to a written statement from the awards committee.

Last July, the team searched for two children, ages 9 and 11, who had left their bikes outside their homes in Columbia's Long Reach village and disappeared.

"I saw the bikes and thought, 'Where would I go if I were a little kid?' " Officer Sprinkle recalled. His instinct drew him to nearby woods, and "the dog started pulling toward a pond," he said.

The children were found asleep on a hill.

"It can be tiring, but it's exhilarating," Officer Sprinkle said of his work. "It makes you feel good."

All the winners have been informed of their awards, except the Educator of the Year, who by tradition is kept secret until the end of the dinner.

The winners among public safety personnel were nominated by their supervisors to a chamber committee that made the final decisions. County educators were nominated by their peers, students and residents.

Tonight's award recipients are:

For firefighting: Career Firefighter of the Year, Sgt. Ronald Hoffman Sr.; Volunteer Firefighter of the Year, Deputy Chief Donald Watson; bronze medals to John Butler, emergency medical technician, and Sgt. William Rosier.

For law enforcement: Silver medal to Pfc. Louis Palazzolo; bronze medal to Pfc. Tyrone Queen; honorable mentions to Detective Keith Fisher, Special Agent Larry Forletta, Officer James Capone and Officer Robert Schoene; Deputy Sheriff of the Year, Deputy Joseph Collins; State Trooper of the Year, Tfc. David K. Jones.

For education: Outstanding Educator awards to Andrew Barshinger, Pointers Run Elementary School; Barry P. Enzman, Glenelg High School; Gail Pleasant, Waterloo Elementary School; Angela Sugg, Mount Hebron High School, and Robert Siskind, Oakland Mills High School.

For educator merit: Moreno Carrasco, Wilde Lake High School; Darlene Fila, St. John's Elementary School; Mary Vaccarino, Waverly Elementary School; Graydon Webster, Atholton High School; and Mary Beth Yelen, Cedar Lane School.

Pub Date: 4/18/96

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