When D.C. Police Officer Stanley Rawls got the call on May 11, he thought it was a typical call from a family seeking help with a mentally ill relative. He soon found it it was for a 15-year-old armed with a 9mm pistol who lay perched on the porch awning of his family’s Northeast rowhouse.
Rawls approached alone and ordered the teen to drop his weapon. For a moment, the gunman lowered his arm, and Rawls believed he was going to disarm. Instead, he fired.
“I was looking into his eyes,” said Rawls, describing the moment before gunshots exploded into his body. “I felt it before I heard it.”
Rawls received the department’s Blue Badge medal, awarded to officers injured in the line of duty, on Thursday night for the bullet wounds he suffered from four gunshots — two in his right shoulder, one in his neck and one that hit his vest.
It was one of dozens of awards, medals and certificates given by Chief Cathy L. Lanier to officers, agency heads and officers during the annual awards ceremony, which was held at Elstad Auditorium on the campus of Gallaudet University.
The 12th annual event is one of the biggest nights of the year for the department, said Lanier, as officers and officials are recognized in front of their families. “This is the chance to thank not only the officers…but to thank their families,” Lanier said. “That’s a big deal to me.”
In an interview, Lanier said this year’s ceremony had a more symbolic importance as she thinks historic reductions in homicide rates and other crimes last year has put the city on a path to new levels of safety — thoug there has been a spike in robberies this year.
Lanier has said she believes that if police could bring the number of homicides in the District below 100 per year, perceptions woud be forever changed.
“I think the city has turned a corner,” Lanier said Thursday. “We only go up from here.”
The 7th Police District, in Southeast, garnered many of the top awards, such as Commander of the Year, Crime Suppression Team of the Year and the overall best performing District station. Officers were credited with more than 9,300 arrests, the seizure of more than 300 guns and 1,200 community meetings attended.
Their awards on stage were greeted by cheers and whistles from a small, but lively, contingent of Southeast residents. Mary Cuthbert and ANC commissioner Sandra Seegars, were part of that group; both have been vocal critics of the police department’s effectiveness.
Cmdr. Joel Maupin credited the awards in part to efforts of his Crime Suppression Team, the rapid closure of homicides — which can prevent retaliation shootings — and efforts by officers to increase traffic stops, which often lead to arrests of suspects wanted for other crimes.
Maupin also praised new residents, neighborhoods and businesses for teaming up with longtime residents to provide invaluable tips for arrests. “They support us every day and help us stop things in the community,” Maupin said.
Officials recognized the Homicide unit for a 95 percent closure rate, which included the closing of cases from prior years, and awarded the unit’s commander Acting Capt. Michael Farish the department’s Captain of the Year.
The Narcotics and Special Investigations Unit also was recognized for a year-long storefront operation, where undercover officers posed as recording studio moguls who also dabbled in guns and drugs. The operation, worked in conjunction with the ATF, FBI and other federal agencies, netted seizures of $1.8 million in powder cocaine, $4.8 million in methamphetamines, 161 firearms and thousands of dollars in cash and other drugs, as well as dozens of arrests.
Rawls said he was thankful for the award. After nine months of rehabilitation, he said, he has learned to cherish his wife and two-year-old son. He said he also learned to find safer ways of doing his job; he is to return to full duty this month.
The Southeast Washington native salso aid his religious faith is now deeper and more profound. When the bullets hit, Rawls said in an interview, “the first thing I thought of was Jesus. I believe that’s why I’m standing here now.”
Read more: The Post’s crime coverage