Never before had the Arlington Heights Police Department given its annual L.W. Calderwood Officer of the Year Award to more than one officer.
But after a major national recognition for the department's traffic bureau, it was fitting that all five officers who helped get that award were recognized on the local level as well.
Police Chief Gerald Mourning and Mayor Tom Hayes on Thursday presented plaques to the department's traffic bureau personnel in 2016: Cmdr. Mark Recker, retired Sgt. Michael Shabez and officers Jeffrey Aiello, James Kryca and David Lavin.
The officers helped the department get the Clayton J. Hall Memorial Award last October from the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The award is given to the law enforcement agency judged to have the most comprehensive traffic safety program in the nation.
The bureau is responsible for local traffic safety enforcement, crash analyses and public education initiatives, including a "Seatbelts Save Lives" effort and driver's education program for teens at Hersey High School.
Since the bureau was formed in 2004, the traffic crash rate has dropped 25 percent, and personal injury crashes are down 35 percent. Last year, the department issued a total of 4,675 traffic citations.
"It's appropriate we've got essentially a team of officers here," Hayes said during the awards presentation at a Rotary Club luncheon. "In the words of Coach Norman Dale from my favorite movie, 'Hoosiers,' we've got five pistons firing together."
Kryca, an original member of the traffic bureau, said 2016 was a bad year for law enforcement around the country, with several officers losing their lives. But he noted how many residents have come up to him and his colleagues to thank them for their service.
"I have to say I've never been so proud to be a law enforcement officer," he said.
Recker, who heads the traffic bureau, was an individual Officer of the Year Award winner in 2001.
Shabez, who recently retired from sworn duty but now works as a civilian in the records department, won in 2008.
Several past awardees were in attendance, as well as members of the Calderwood family. The award is named for the former police chief who served from 1958 to 1976.
Awardees typically receive a $500 prize, which will be split five ways this year.