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Officers win award, one for the 2nd time

By JANEL STEPHENS
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 12, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG -- Two more names were added to a plaque that recognizes decades of outstanding officers with the city's Police Department. But only one, Detective Rick Shaw, appears twice.

In the half century the E.L. "Ned" March award has been given, Friday was the first time an officer won for a second time.

"And that speaks volumes to me," said police Chief Chuck Harmon before handing Shaw a plaque and a $250 check at the St. Petersburg Rotary Club's 50th annual Ned March Awards banquet. Shaw, a longtime veteran of the department, was honored Friday with Detective Joseph Dente of the robbery unit.

Shaw, 46, was recognized for catching so many suspects in 2002 on patrol working the midnight shift. He had also received the award in 1989 for his service as a detective on the narcotics unit.

Dente, 32, was awarded for his service in the robbery unit. During his eight years with the department, Dente has worked as a patrol officer, community officer, officer of the tactical team and field training officer. In May 2000 he was nominated as the Field Training Officer of the Year. That same year, he received a life-saving award for aiding someone who had been shot. Before he was a detective with the robbery unit, Dente was an officer with the Uniformed Services Bureau and worked as a child abuse and sexual abuse investigator with the Youth Resources Division of the Investigative Services.

"I saw a commanding officer who was very respectful and fair," said former Ned March award recipient Sgt. Al White, who nominated Dente for the award. "He worked hard and was willing to volunteer his time without pay to provide services to the community."

Winning twice was a surprise for Shaw, who said he never thought he would become a police officer. He moved to Florida in the early 1980s and was between jobs when he noticed a billboard on U.S. 19 that advertised job openings at the St. Petersburg Police Department.

"My dad saw it and said, 'Why don't you try it?' " Shaw recalled. After a little coaxing, he gave in. "I got hired very quickly and I've been here ever since."

"He's been the most productive police officer in 20 years that I've ever seen," said Shaw's former commander, Sgt. Ray Waldo.

Shaw, who was recently assigned as a detective to the Special Investigations Unit, is known for stopping burglaries and auto thefts in progress. His professional curiosity is what makes Shaw stand out from the rest, said Lt. Dave Field, midnight shift commander for District 3. "If something's out of place he asks why is it out of place," Field said.

About 160 people attended the lunch held by the Rotary Club. Former police Chief E. Wilson "Bud" Purdy reminded the audience of March's legacy and his two great loves: the Rotary Club and the Police Department.

March founded the award for top officers in 1953 and personally funded it for 10 years, until he died in 1963.

The lunch was attended by Mayor Rick Baker, Deputy Mayor Goliath Davis III, local businessmen, community leaders and former recipients. The Ned March Awards were established as an incentive for officers to do better. The award is presented annually to two St. Petersburg police officers and is based on alertness, efficiency, courtesy and outstanding performance.

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