SALISBURY – Several members of the Wicomico County Sherriff’s Office were recently recognized as recipients of the National Sheriffs Association (NSA) awards.
At last week’s Wicomico County Council meeting, Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis recognized Deputy First Class Chip Oakley, who had been assigned to the Judicial Protection Unit since 2006 and has served at both Wicomico County District Court and Circuit Court.
“Deputy Oakley’s responsibility of safe guarding prisoners is appreciated and recognized on a daily basis,” Lewis said. “In a very busy Circuit Court, our personnel are required to monitor not only prisoners between holding areas and court rooms but also facilitate the movement between prisoners themselves often in high-profile and serious murder cases we are tasked with keeping prisoners separate from one another.”
During the last year, Oakley instituted a system of tracking inmates and their locations, in addition to coordinating the fiscal security of court inmates. He has also been acting supervisor of Wicomico County Judicial Protection Unit that consists of 15 sworn deputies and six civilian personnel.
“We are truly honored to recognize Deputy First Class Oakley accomplishments and announce his selection as this nation’s top recipient of the NSA Court Security Agent/ Professional of the Year Award for 2013,” Sheriff Lewis said.
Lewis next recognized Sgt. Jessica Hill, who was assigned to the School Resource Officers Unit in 2011 to make modifications to the program to ensure it would operate efficiently and effectively.
One primary concern she identified was the lack of coordinating information regarding gangs within Wicomico County school neighborhoods. Hill developed a plan to help collect and disseminate information detained to students who are gang members and their activities within Wicomico County. In turn, she met monthly with each School Resource Deputy and discussed their findings. These meetings laid the foundation for monthly safe school meetings that brought all of the county’s partners to the table from the Board of Education, Salisbury Police Department, the local Gang Enforcement Unit, and local judicial officers.
Hill developed and implemented a school building security survey, which was used to identify security concerns in eight of the Wicomico County public schools. The information included where security cameras should be placed as well as strategies for each of the locations.
“We are truly honored to recognize Dr. Sgt. Jessica Hill’s accomplishments and announce her selection as a recipient of NSA Medal of Merit,” Lewis said. “This medal is awarded for valuable contribution to her community and to the field of criminal justice and law enforcement in Wicomico County.”
In 2010, Deputy First Class Thomas Funk volunteered for an assignment that attached him to the Maryland State Police Apprehension Team, which specializes in locating high risk fugitives and those aggressively avoiding federal apprehension. The unit is made of U.S. Marshals, state troopers, deputy sheriffs and local law enforcement officers who are bringing in federal authority to act anywhere in the nation let alone this town for the purpose of locating the worse of the worst offenders.
“In what was a rainy week day, Feb. 29, 2012, just a little over one year ago that Deputy First Class Funk and his team moved on Tayvon Dobson,” Lewis recalled. “A wanted felon in two states, one for attempted murder with a firearm in Cambridge.”
The investigation by the Maryland State Police Homicide Unit indicates Funk was one of the task force members who entered the residence after being admitted entrance. Other members of the task force had formed a perimeter around the exterior of the building.
Team members finally reached a door let to a separate apartment and discovered Dobson standing holding a handgun. Dobson immediately initiated gun fire with law enforcement officers that led to an immediate withdraw from the apartment. While the team retreated down the stairs Deputy Funk found himself trapped on the second floor with an armed felon that was not only determined to avoid apprehension but had already demonstrated his willingness to take a life of a law enforcement officer.
Funk found himself alternating between taking cover while in close quarter gunfire with Dobson. He pulled a mattress and a dresser between himself and the gun fire while trying to keep an innocent citizen on the floor with him to keep from getting shot.
Funk was shot through the shoulder but continued to exchange gunfire. Funk was able to break out a window in the second floor of the home and escape onto a roof before jumping to the ground. Other officers came to his aid and he was transported to the hospital. He underwent surgery and was released from the hospital the following day.
“We are truly honored tonight to recognize Deputy First Class Thomas Funk’s bravery and professionalism and announce his selection as a recipient of the NSA Medal of Valor and the Purple Heart,” Lewis said.