KAILUA-KONA — The reason for the award is simple: appreciation.
And on Wednesday, the Kona Crime Prevention Committee made good with its public nod of support for the men and women in blue by honoring once again West Hawaii’s police force during its annual Officer of the Year luncheon.
“We love our officers in Kona and we want them to know it,” KCPC president Diane Blancett-Maddock told the crowd gathered at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel.
With 10 Officers of the Month behind him on stage — the pool of nominees eligible for the coveted award — Deputy Chief Kenneth Bugado praised the field for their dedication to public safety in the community where they live and work.
“These officers have all demonstrated excellence that goes above and beyond what’s expected and have made a difference in the lives of the citizens of Hawaii,” Bugado said.
But alas, only one can be bestowed the honor. And this year, Ansel Robinson was selected as the 2019 Officer of the Year.
“This is a humbling moment,” Robinson after being named. “So many have stood here before me and so many will stand here after me. I have respect for everyone up on that stage.”
Robinson was twice honored as Officer of the Month for drug-related arrests. That, along with September not being represented because it’s the year award, accounted for the 10 nominees over the course of the year ending in June.
Robinson — who joked he got his name because his parents didn’t get past the letter “A” in the baby name book — earned his first award in November 2018 for an arrest on Alii Drive where he found a male suspect sleeping in the back seat of a pickup truck and detected a strong smell of marijuana. The man exited the truck and when asked about the odor, didn’t say anything but went into the vehicle and poured out a garbage bag full of green leafy substance that appeared to be marijuana.
Robinson recognized the male party as a person who sells illegal drugs in Kona. Knowing this, he got vice officers involved as he suspected more illegal drugs were in the truck. Vice officers executed a search warrant and recovered additional marijuana, cocaine and several hundred dollars in cash.
For Robinson’s second award in March, he responded to an anonymous tip of a driver who appeared to be driving drunk and selling drugs.
Robinson found the vehicle in the parking lot of a bar and observed two individuals walking up to other vehicles and making hand-to-hand exchanges before heading to another bar. He coordinated with other officers to keep an eye on the vehicle and any traffic violations that would warrant a stop.
Another officer observed the driver of the vehicle using a cellphone while driving and initiated a traffic stop.
Robinson assisted in the stop and observed a glass pipe in the center console of the vehicle. The driver was arrested and after executing a search warrant on the vehicle, vice officers recovered marijuana, cocaine, prescription medications, mushrooms and $971 in cash.
“Officer Ansel Robinson demonstrates strong determination and resolve,” Sgt. David Araki said in his nomination of Robinson. “He is able to use the information he is given and make sincere efforts determining if the information is valid. He is a valued member of the police department and community. He is committed to making the community a safe place to live and work.”
After accepting the award, Robinson paid tribute to Officer Christopher Sugimoto, who died last week of anaphylactic shock while off-duty. His organs were donated so that others could live.
“He was a real hero,” said Robinson, a five-year veteran, who was presented with a plaque and gifts from local businesses for the award.
Even though only one can be named Officer of the Year, Blancett-Maddock reminded the attendees it takes a team of officers to make a community feel safe.
“When others around the country ridicule their police officers, we love ours,” she said.