Many officers recognize that any simple vehicle stop can lead to drastic, unexpected outcomes. Every time an officer pulls a car over, they must engage in critical decision-making, often putting themselves at risk for the people in the community and sometimes even with those who are breaking the law as well.

Police Officers Association of Michigan honors the work of Sheriff Deputy Bill Warner of the Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office for doing just that in September 2022. His actions on that day may have started with pulling over a driver for a simple traffic violation but led to not only the capture of two people with warrants but also life-saving actions for one of the two.

For that, Deputy Warner is recognized as a 2023 Police Officer of the Year.

A Traffic Stop That Was Anything But Simple

Lenawee County DSA's William Webster | Police Officer of the Year Awards - May 2023 | POAM
Lenawee County DSA’s William Webster and POAM Business Agent Dave LaMontaine.

On September 8, 2022, Deputy Warner made a traffic stop on an SUV in Medina Township for improper plates. The two men in the vehicle had felony warrants from multiple jurisdictions. Upon initiating a traffic stop, the vehicle’s driver fled on foot. As that occurred, the passenger jumped into the driver’s seat and drove away through a field, and a car chase ensued. Within minutes, Deputy Warner found the SUV flipped over in a ravine with smoke coming from the vehicle.

The man was trapped in the vehicle and was crying out for help. After calling for help, Deputy Warner didn’t hesitate to take action. The car suddenly burst into fire, yet he raced toward the vehicle, jumped into the ravine, and worked tirelessly for several minutes to pull the man from the vehicle.

Throughout the harrowing few minutes, the driver could not help free his foot, but through constant maneuvering and adjusting, Deputy Warner finally freed him. Throughout this ordeal, he was supportive and encouraging, working hard to save the man’s life while keeping him calm. He then put off his burning clothing in the ravine by dunking his legs. Eventually, Deputy Warner pulled the driver to the bank to wait for additional help as the fire raged in the background.

The actions of Deputy Warner are extraordinary, as he put himself at risk to save the driver’s life. Had he not taken action, the tragedy would have been far worse.

Recognition for a Job Well Done

Deputy Warner received the Life Saving Award and Medal of Honor from Sheriff Troy Beiver for his bravery during this event. He has served the community for more than 30 years. He has worked with the sheriff’s office for about five years, spending decades before that working with the City of Tecumseh Police Department.

His actions in this incident are those of a hero. He saved the man’s life and put himself in danger at one of the most critical points when the vehicle burst into flames. Throughout the incident, he maintained a calm and encouraging demeanor, supporting the man as he tried to free himself. It is actions like these that the POAM recognizes as incredible, life-changing actions. For his quick-thinking actions and commitment to saving lives, Sheriff Deputy Bill Warner is one of the 2023 Police Officer of the Year Award recipients.

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