Naperville officer lauded for giving arrestee 'a little boost'
Naperville police officer Daniel Lukensmeyer arrested a guy, helped him buy a car battery and won an award.
There's more to the story. But that's how Lukensmeyer sees it: a simple, one-time gesture that came as a natural extension of doing his job.
That's not how his training officer sees it, though. To officer Martin Franken, it was a lesson about the opportunities cops have to help, often by doing something small.
And that's not how Naperville's Citizens Appreciate Public Safety board sees it. To board members, it was an act of compassion and kindness that was well worth recognition.
For his role in helping a man arrested on charges of trespassing at a hotel get working transportation, Lukensmeyer was given the George Pradel Award, named in honor of the retired Naperville "Officer Friendly" and mayor emeritus by the same name.
Franken, who was training Lukensmeyer on Dec. 12, 2017, when this story began, nominated his colleague.
"Often individuals just need a little boost and then they can get going," said Franken, a 23-year veteran of the force who has been training new officers for about a decade. "There are regular opportunities to make a difference and Dan did so without seeking any accolades whatsoever."
Lukensmeyer and Franken were called to the Extended Stay America Chicago-Naperville-West hotel about 1 p.m. one winter day for nonpaying guests who wouldn't leave.
Both officers said the man they encountered was cooperative, a "perfect gentleman," Franken said. So even as they took him into custody for the trespassing charge, the officers listened to his story.
The man, 26, was staying at the hotel with his brother, who at the time was donating plasma to make money. The brothers couldn't leave because their car battery wasn't working, the man said.
Franken said officers frequently hear stories like this. It leaves them "dumbfounded, he said.
"Like, all you really need is a car battery and this comes together?" Franken said.
He mentioned this idea of how to help to Lukensmeyer, 32, who was in his 10th month on the job after serving as an Army Ranger. Lukensmeyer ran with it.
After a DuPage County judge released the man on a personal recognizance bond, Lukensmeyer and Franken drove him to a store and split the cost of a new battery for the man and his brother to install.
Lukensmeyer said he told the man about social services available through the police department to help with housing or issues beyond the car battery, but the man hasn't followed up.
"At that point, I just wanted to help the guy out," Lukensmeyer said. "From there on, there's better people than me to help out with that situation."
David Wentz, chairman of the Citizens Appreciate Public Safety board, said it took courage and patience for the new officer to determine that the broken car battery was at the root of the men's problems.
Lisa Gangi, a board member, said Lukensmeyer's willingness to go beyond the expected and spend his own money could have set the brothers on a positive path. "The fact that Dan made an effort to be kind and connected may have dissuaded an adverse action," Gangi said.
Lukensmeyer said he could think of plenty of colleagues more deserving of the George Pradel Award, like the officer who visits a youth home and cooks breakfast there every week or the resource officer who does great work at a high school.
But little gestures matter.
"I wanted Dan, at this early stage in his career, to recognize these opportunities as they present themselves," Franken said. "This measurable contribution can actually go to great lengths in making a difference in a person's life."
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