By Dawn Krebs
FORT PIERCE -- At the annual awards ceremony the Fort Pierce Police Department holds every year, Chief Sean Baldwin looked back on what he called an "amazing" year.
"It's been incredibly successful," he said to the packed room at the Fort Pierce Police Athletic League building on Dec. 13.
The department gathers at the end of every year to honor those who went above and beyond. But this year, the honor went to more than just people.
"This is PAL's first permanent home," he said. "It's serving more kids today than it ever has."
He went to point out that three volunteers with the PAL organization were recognized nationally for their hard work.
Steve Dipalma, president of the PAL board and Bill Parrish, general manager of the Walmart distribution center, both were awarded as Florida State Police Athletic League Volunteers of the Year. Also, Fort Pierce Officer April Lee received the honor as the National Police Athletic League Volunteer Woman of the Year.
Among the other 2012 award recipients, the award for Civilian of the Year went to Diane Daniels, community services aide; Manager of the Year to Sgt. Donald Christman and 2012 Detective of the Year to Benjamin Thayer.
"If there was someone who we were looking for, we knew who to go to," said Sgt. Dennis McWilliams, public information officer.
The 2012 Officer of the Year award went to Brian Avilla. Officer Avilla's job is to recruit potential applicants for the department.
"He's the type of guy who will get involved with anything," said Sgt. McWilliams. "He always has a positive attitude and is highly respected."
One of the many highlights of the awards ceremony came when K-9 Officer Bingo came personally to be recognized. After many years with the department, Bingo retired this year, and among the other accolades, received a large bone for his hard work.
"In honor of Bingo's retirement, the group the U.S. War Dogs donated $300 to raise funds to purchase another K-9 dog," said Sgt. McWilliams.
"In addition, Bingo's partner, Officer Robert Stagner, helped to raise an additional $1,000 toward the purchase of more dogs."
Chief Baldwin was assisted in handing out the awards by Fort Pierce Mayor Linda Hudson.