Eight Oak Creek police officers will be honored at the White House this weekend for their heroic response efforts in the Aug. 5, 2012, mass shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek.
The officers were selected from hundreds of nominations of law enforcement personnel across the country to receive the TOPS COPS awards, distributed annually by the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO).
“(The awards are) really meant to recognize extraordinary acts of courage and bravery that go above and beyond the call of duty,” said Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association (WPPA) and NAPO member.
Oak Creek officers and other designated honorees will be saluted Saturday morning at a ceremony hosted by President Barack Obama in the White House Rose Garden. Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder will also be in attendance along with Janet Napolitano, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The officers will also be acknowledged by NAPO at a formal awards program Sunday night and at a separate ceremony in Wisconsin in the coming weeks.
Law enforcement heroes from 10 different cases across the country are recognized by NAPO each year.
This year’s recognition falls at the dawn of National Police Week.
“It’s during this time of year that the law enforcement community takes a step back and honors the service, sacrifice and heroics of men and women from across the country,” Palmer said.
TOPS COPS awards winners from Oak Creek include Sam Lenda, Brian Murphy, John Finco, Julie Grauberger, Dean Kleinhans, Kelly Romen, Michael Schultz, and Derick Slamka.
The eight officers, nominated by Onalaska, Wis., police officer and WPPA board representative Lisa Gerbig, helped save dozens of worshiping Sikh members during the mass shooting, which resulted in seven fatalities.
For Wisconsin, the acknowledgement is almost “regrettably gratifying,” Palmer said, in light of the gravity of the tragedy.
“To see that all our officers responded so professionally – that is a good thing – and we want to try and find positive aspects to any tragedy and this is one,” Palmer said.