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Hellam Twp. cop gets impromptu side-of-the-road award
Call it great timing or quite a coincidence for Jeff Bowman, whose duties with the Highway Safety Network include documenting local police departments' efforts to combat aggressive driving and promote seat-belt use.
Bowman, the network's law-enforcement liaison in south-central Pennsylvania, was on his way to the Hellam Township Police Department on Feb. 18 when something caught his eye.
Bowman's intent was to give Hellam Township Police Officer Tim Gingrich an award for his efforts to combat aggressive driving.
"Lo and behold, I come across a traffic stop," he told The York Dispatch. It was along Route 462 (Market Street/Lincoln Highway) near the intersection of Accomac Road.
Bowman stopped and snapped a photo of an officer standing next to the car he'd pulled over.
Under a billboard: Looming large over the officer was a billboard urging drivers to buckle up — part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's push to increase seat-belt usage.
"I didn't even really look at the billboard until after I'd taken the picture," Bowman said, and only later realized the good fortune of it.
That's because certain municipal police departments, including Hellam Township's, receive NHTSA grant money through the state Department of Transportation — funding to help them combat aggressive driving and promote seat belt use, he said. The Highway Safety Network is a subcontractor of PennDOT, he said.
But the coincidence got even better, according to Bowman, who waited until the officer finished with the traffic stop to approach him and a second cop at the scene.
The officer who'd initiated the traffic stop turned out to be Gingrich, which Bowman said he learned when he spoke to the backup officer — who turned out to be Gingrich's boss, township Police Chief Doug Pollock.
Impromptu ceremony: Bowman said when he told Pollock he was in their area to track down Gingrich, the chief responded by saying, "He's right here."
So Bowman wasted no time.
"Right there, I gave him the award," Bowman said. "It's kind of different to receive an award while out in the field doing your job."
"It truly was not staged," Bowman said. "That's just what happened."
Gingrich, 30, who was named Hellam Township's officer of the year for 2016, received a 2016 Top Gun DUI award for his impressive number of DUI arrests and is eligible for a 2017 Top Gun DUI award too, according to Pollock.
He's been with the department for about three years, the chief said.
"We make sure he's got all the tools he needs" to conduct traffic enforcement and watch for intoxicated drivers, Pollock said.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.
Editor's note: This story was updated to correct the spelling of Chief Doug Pollock's last name.