A Rapid City police officer has been presented with a third award during his five years with the department — this time for saving a life.
“Having one is rare. Having three is very rare,” Rapid City Police Chief Don Hedrick said Wednesday.
Hedrick presented officer Robert Mathies with a Life Saving Medal at Tuesday morning's briefing for saving a juvenile girl during a car accident in Rapid City involving a stolen vehicle on May 10, 2020. Hedrick said the girl was not breathing and had no pulse when Mathies gave her life-saving CPR.
“As a result of that, she started breathing and her pulse came back,” Hedrick said. “Anytime you have a youth involved, that can be a very traumatic experience for our community and for everyone involved, and because of his quick actions, we have somebody that is alive today. All of those factors played into it. That's why we came to the conclusion that he should receive this medal.”
According to department policy, the award may be bestowed upon members for an act performed in the line of duty, which through disregard of personal safety or prompt and alert action, results in saving a life.
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Mathies’ heroics started in 2018 when he received a Commander's Citation, which he earned for his actions during a situation in 2018 involving a man who had a knife in hand and was acting erratic and putting the neighborhood at risk.
“Due to Robert’s and others’ actions, they were able to get him under control so he didn’t hurt himself or somebody else,” Hedrick said.
Commander's Citations are awarded when an RCPD staff member demonstrates exemplary service, above and beyond the normal scope of their duties, on a case, incident, special project, or to an employee who maintains their composure when confronted with a highly volatile situation and continues to perform well in accordance with acceptable standards of contact.
Former Police Chief Karl Jegeris presented Mathies with a Distinguished Service Cross Medal for his actions during a Dec. 29, 2019 incident when Mathies, along with other officers, ran into an apartment building on East Minnesota Street while an active shooter fired at them. Journal archives show a bullet hit a patrol car during the incident.
Distinguished Service Cross Medals are awarded to RCPD members who distinguish themselves by demonstrating exceptional bravery despite an imminent risk of serious bodily injury or death. The medal falls just below the Medal of Honor, which is the highest award possible in the department.
“He's a good police officer. Rapid City's lucky to have him,” Hedrick said. “He spends a lot of time training our newer police officers, and that's an honor in itself. When we trust you to train others, that means you're doing things well.”
Hedrick said awards are given to show appreciation within the department as well as show the community “some of the amazing things our folks are doing out there on a regular basis.”
“It's a way for us to internally hold up somebody that does something amazing or exceptional and, also, we want to make sure that we're doing everything we can to keep good police officers employed here,” Hedrick said. “We have a lot of amazing folks working in our building, and we want to make sure that they understand they're appreciated and extraordinary acts are valued highly.”
All department personnel can nominate someone for an award. Nominations are reviewed by the Awards Review Board, which consists of one command staff officer appointed by the police chief, and one employee from each division. The board sends recommendations to the chief, who makes the final determination.
Hedrick said Life Saving Medals are not a frequent occurrence. Only a couple are awarded each year.
“The Life Saving Medals aren't easy to come by,” he said.
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