Fallen police sergeant posthumously named county Officer of the Year
Prince George's to hold Valor Awards luncheon today
The Prince George's County Valor Awards are reserved for public safety officials who have faced danger or risked their lives in the line of duty. Today Sgt. Richard Findley will receive two of the highest awards given by the county police department, the Gold Medal of Valor and the Officer of the Year Award, for giving his life in the line of duty.
Findley, 39, was killed June 27, 2008 in Laurel when he was hit by a stolen truck that he was attempting to stop as part of his job with the District 6 special assignment team.
"He unfortunately was killed doing what he loved to do. He enjoyed going out there and catching bad guys," said Sgt. Jeff Schreiber, who oversees the special assignment team that Findley was a part of. "We know it can happen. If we don't do [our jobs] then society would be running amuck."
His widow, Kelly Findley, 30, will accept the award on his behalf.
"He always liked being recognized for his larger busts and getting the recognition that he deserved," she said. "Unfortunately in order to get this honor you have to die."
A supervisor or co-worker usually nominates a recipient of the valor awards. Each department selects an employee as official of the year and also awards gold, silver and bronze awards for valor, depending on the danger the official faced.
Kelly Findley said her husband enjoyed his 10 years in the police department, particularly his time spent on the street.
"His sergeant's test came in April [before he died] and he said 'Go ahead and file that in the trash,'" Kelly Findley said. "If he would have taken that [and been promoted] he would have been babysitting a larger group."
Findley was a corporal when he died and was posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant.
"He did great police work, he loved to go out and find drugs and guns," said Schreiber, adding one of Findley's biggest busts on the team was recovering more than 80 pounds of marijuana in March 2007. "He has definitely made his mark in the Beltsville area."
In the time since his death, Kelly Findley, of New Windsor in Carroll County, said the last few months have been a blur but the Beltsville Volunteer Department, and members of the police department have been a huge help to her and her two daughters, Lauren, 7, and Nicole, 10,
"The fire department, any time I call and need something they are there," she said. "They don't abandon their own. It is a true family and you don't realize how big and strong it is until you need them."
Richard and Kelly Findley met at the Beltsville fire department, where Richard volunteered for 20 years and Kelly regularly volunteered up until the birth of her daughters.
Benefits and charity rides have raised thousands of dollars for the Findley family and Kelly Findley said so far she and her daughters have been able to make it by.
"His pension is meager and we get that and the girls get Social Security benefits," she said.
She said her neighbors have helped with a lot of handy work around the house as well.
"Rich wasn't too handy around the house to start with," she said. "But he was able to pull some handiness together for his Christmas in April project."
Christmas in April is an annual nonprofit program in which project teams work to renovate and refurbish homes in the county. Findley was in charge of a team that renovated an elderly woman's house in 2007. He even donated $1,500 of his own money to buy the woman a new water heater.
"When it was all done it was about $15,000 worth of donated supplies," said Schreiber, who added that projects usually come in at around $4,000 to $5,000 at the most.
Kelly Findley said he was always trying to give people a hand.
"He was the type of person that if you saw something you liked, he was about finding the bargain for you so you didn't have to pay full price," she said. "[After his death] I had so many people coming up to me say they knew Rich when he was a kid and he was a great person and he is truly going to be missed."
Her daughters were especially hard hit by the loss.
"Nicole is my very sentimental and emotional child. I can hold it together until I see her cry," Kelly Findley said. "I look at my kids every day and I'm blessed to have them because I have a piece of him with me."
A lot of anonymous gifts were set to the girls. Standing out among them are matching heart pendants with Findley's picture laser cut into them. The girls wore the pendants — their favorite gifts — at the April 21 engraving ceremony of their father's name on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial wall in Washington, D.C.
"They try not to wear them too often so they don't get ruined," Kelly Findley said.
Schreiber said at least the girls will be able to see the awards their father received and understand that people were grateful for the work that he did.
"His girls can look back on that, and so can Kelly, and know he was a hero," Schreiber said.
E-mail Andrea Noble firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO
The Valor Awards luncheon is being held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today at the Camelot located at 13901 Central Avenue in Upper Marlboro. An official from the county police, fire and EMS, and corrections departments and the sheriff's office and Public Safety Communications Center will each be honored with the official of the year award. Nine officials will receive gold medal valor awards, 10 will receive silver and 40 will receive bronze. The awards are distributed based on the level of danger each employee faced.