Post 229 Honors Utica Police Dept.

Kopek, Holt Named Officers of the Year

Officers of Year James Holt, left, and Robert Kopek, right, flank Police Chief Mark Williams who accepted the Police Department of the Year Award on behalf of Utica PD.

UTICA, NY, April 7, 2011 -- Utica Post 229 American Legion is honoring the Utica Police Department as Police Department of the Year and two of its members as Police Officers of the Year, Post Vice Commander Chris Urban announced at the post's membership meeting Thursday, April 7.

Urban introduced Law and Order Chair Paul Wojcik who presented the awards to Police Chief Mark Williams and Officers of the Year Robert Kopek and James Holt.

Utica PD is being honored in recognition of both its upcoming 150th anniversary and its work resulting in a reduction in violent crime, he said. The department is the largest in Oneida County, with 180 men and women officers, and is frequently asked to assist other law enforcement agencies with personnel and technical expertise, he said. Wojcik noted that Utica PD set forth a plan to reduce violent crimes in the city. "The hard work of the officers paid off," he said. "Last year the homicide rate was the lowest it has been since 2001. Aggravated assaults, or assaults involving weapons, dropped significantly to the lowest it has been since 2004. Robberies also dropped to the lowest they've been since 2005." Last year, he added, Utica police responded to more than 55,000 calls, made 6,247 arrests, responded to 3,530 motor vehicle accidents, wrote 8,570 traffic summonses and 17,780 parking tickets.

Investigator Robert Kopek is the senior investigator in the night unit of the Criminal Investigation Division. He is regarded as the "go to" investigator, providing assistance in the majority of cases CID has handled over the past two years, and is a mentor to newer investigators, Wojcik said. He was the lead investigator in a number of homicide cases, including the slaying of Officer Thomas Lindsey, which resulted in the arrest and conviction of Wesley Molina-Cirino. He also assisted the investigation in the slaying of New Hartford Officer Joseph Corr and in the 2010 bank robbery that led to the shooting of an Oneida County Sheriff's Deputy. Investigator Kopek is currently assisting the District Attorney's office in the 25-year-old murder of Kim Simon. Kopek joined the Utica PD in 2002, after working for both the Whitestown and Whitesboro police departments, and transferred to Criminal Investigations in 2005.

Officer James Holt is a member of the Special Operations Unit and is regarded as "one of the hardest working officers" that the Utica PD has, noted Wojcik. In 2010 alone, he arrested 187 persons, made 143 drug-related arrests, including 32 felonies, and was involved in three incidents in which loaded handguns were removed from the street. He is the unit's liaison with the Utica PD's Drug METRO Unit. "Officer Holt also formulated an Officer Initiated Investigation which addressed criminal activity related to corner stores throughout the city that were involved in food stamp fraud," Wojcik said. "This investigation was highly successful and resulted in numerous arrests." Holt joined the Utica PD in 2007 after serving with the Herkimer Police Department. He began his life-long dream of being a police officer after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years, including a 14-month combat tour in Iraq.

The awards ceremony followed a dinner attended by Legionnaires, auxiliary members, the families of the honorees, and a number of people from the Utica Police Department.

Wojcik noted that Post 229 would submit the names of the officers of the year for the County level award, and the Utica PD for state-level honors.

Post 229 honors top firefighters every fall and top cops in the spring.