On an freezing-cold night last January, Officer Dennis Brillhart noticed a dim light in a field to the side of the road during a routine patrol of North Codorus Township.
When he stopped to investigate, Brillhart discovered it was the broken headlight of a car that had spiraled off the road. After hearing a rustling in the distance, he found the ejected driver, Douglas Morris, 28, of Hanover, lying in the snow with half his clothes torn off.
The Southwestern Regional Police officer called in the fire department, which took Morris to York Hospital's Intensive Care Unit, where he was able to recover.
With this case in mind, the York County Police Heritage Museum awarded Brillhart, 57, the York County Officer of the Year Award.
Brillhart said it's recognition for all the good work he and his fellow officers do, often lost behind their less-glamorous daily grind, such as writing tickets.
It's not the first praise he's gotten for his work that night. Brillhart said he received several calls — from the victim as well as the man's wife and father — thanking him for saving Morris' life.
"It's good to get a pat on the back for the job you do, that people recognize the effort not only of myself, but the rest of the police officers in the department and also the state," Brillhart said. "We all try to do our jobs and that particular night I just dealt with it like another night on the job, and I was just at the right place at the right time."
At a ceremony late last month, Brillhart was awarded a certificate, award ribbon, glass trophy, $25 prepaid credit card and a plaque to display in the station.
Standout achievement: Chief Greg Bean, who has worked with Brillhart since the creation of the Southwestern Regional Police 12 years ago, said the praise is well-deserved.
"One of Officer Brillhart's qualities is quite simply that he's curious while he's on patrol," Bean said. "He's an officer who routinely finds these things that are out of place. And that really sets an officer apart from the rest, when he's constantly looking for things that are amiss or amuck."
Brillhart said he's not the kind of person who seeks praise for his work, and the publicity around his award is more than he is used to. Bean said Brillhart didn't even mention the January incident when he came into work the next day.
"He was working overnight, and I simply came in the next morning and checked reports ... he didn't say anything," Bean said. "As I was reading the narrative it just started getting better and better, as far as the story."
Brillhart, who said working as a police officer fulfills a childhood dream, said the recognition hasn't changed his daily routine.
"I try to be courteous to everyone I come in contact with. I go out of my way as much as I can to help people, do my job to the best of my ability," he said. "I hope to retire from this position in another six or seven years and I've really liked my job."
— Reach Michael Tabb at firstname.lastname@example.org.