Michigan State Police employees honored for years of dedication and service

LANSING, MICH. – Michigan State Police (MSP) Director Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue is pleased to announce the 2017 recipients of the Dr. Carl A. Gerstacker Trooper of the Year, Motor Carrier Officer of the Year and Floyd R. Bell Jr. Civilian of the Year awards. They received the awards at a special ceremony in Lansing January 18.

Trooper of the Year: Trooper Blaine Bachman of the Wayland Post was named Trooper of the Year.

The Gerstacker Trooper of the Year Award recognizes the MSP trooper or sergeant who symbolizes outstanding professional ethics, dedication to duty and a concern for giving back to their community. The late Dr. Carl A. Gerstacker, former chairman of Dow Chemical Company, created the award in 1961.

Bachman is a recipient of the Cpl. Samuel A. Mapes Criminal Patrol and Investigation Award, recognized for excelling in looking past the traffic stop to identify serious crimes and close investigations with felony arrests. He is a mentor to younger troopers as a field training officer and has become someone to turn to for assistance with criminal investigations. He also coordinates the post’s Explorers program, which a career-oriented program that gives young adults the opportunity to explore a career in law enforcement.

“Tpr. Bachman rarely does only what is expected. His exemplary work performance, extensive community involvement and leadership skills make him an excellent choice for Trooper of the Year,” said Etue. “He is keenly aware of the needs of his fellow troopers and also works hard to make a positive difference in his community.”

Bachman participates in MSP community initiatives, such as Stuff the Turkey and Shop with a Cop. He has mentored a child during the DNR’s youth hunt and, like others in the department, has taken the frigid polar plunge to raise money for Special Olympics. Bachman enlisted with the MSP in 2014, graduating as a member of the 126th Trooper Recruit School.

Motor Carrier Officer of the Year: Motor Carrier Officer Christopher Russo of the Jackson Post was named Motor Carrier Officer of the Year.

The Motor Carrier Officer of the Year Award recognizes the MSP motor carrier officer who symbolizes outstanding professional ethics, dedication to duty and concern for giving back to their community.

“Motor Carrier Officer Russo is known for his professionalism and leadership. He excels in providing educational opportunities for industry partners and students alike,” said Etue. “His reputation of outstanding work performance, commercial vehicle enforcement knowledge and relentless commitment to service make him an excellent choice for the Motor Carrier Officer of the Year Award.”

As a field training officer, Russo recently identified ways to improve field training for new motor carrier officers. He is regarded as an expert in commercial vehicle enforcement by his peers and regularly assists with developing enforcement plans for his post area.

Russo’s positive image extends into the community too, where he is frequently seen at special events and classroom activities and supports the Special Olympics with annual monetary donations.

Russo enlisted with the MSP in 2012, graduating as a member of the 18th Motor Carrier Officer Recruit School. Prior to serving at the Jackson Post, he served at the Monroe Post.

Civilian of the Year: Ms. Connie VanHouten of the Wayland Post was named Civilian of the Year.

The MSP Civilian of the Year Award is named in honor of the late Floyd R. Bell Jr., a 42-year employee of the MSP, who continuously demonstrated commitment and dedication to the department and his community.

“Ms. VanHouten is the go-to person at the Wayland Post for just about everything,” said Etue. “Her positive attitude and comforting presence make an impact not just at work, but also in her hometown. Her commitment to bettering the lives of those around her makes her an obvious choice for the Civilian of the Year Award.”

VanHouten is the primary organizer and fundraiser for at the Wayland Post for many events that benefit the less fortunate. Thanks to her commitment, the events are always a great success resulting in the collection of thousands of pounds of food or monetary donations.

Though invaluable at work, what she does at home and for the children in her community is what makes VanHouten really remarkable. A strong advocate of foster parenting and adoption, VanHouten has adopted eight children, including two groups of siblings, into her family.

Sharing her story to help others understand what a rewarding experience fostering and adoption can be has become her mission. As a result, 20 children have been adopted by her friends.

VanHouten is active in a number of programs that help provide food, clothing and school supplies to low income families.

VanHouten joined the MSP in 1997. She serves as a secretary at the Wayland Post.

For more information about the Michigan State Police, visit www.michigan.gov/msp