Officer Robert Wuller of the Philadelphia (Pa.) Police Department has been named the 2006 Police Officer of the Year by Parade magazine and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Officer Wuller is honored for his quick thinking and decisive action in risking his life to save a woman and two children.
The Police Officer of the Year Award was presented to Wuller, 30, at a ceremony in Boston, Mass., during the annual conference of the IACP. Ten additional officers received honorable mention.
Officer Wuller was driving alone in his patrol car last April when his radio crackled to life. Within minutes he was at an apartment building in North Philadelphia, where he could hear a woman and child screaming. “The doors were locked, and I could hear screaming and blows being struck,” Wuller recalls. “I was pushing buttons, but nobody would open the door.” A man rushed down the stairs but covered his face and raced out the back. Wuller called in a description and that suspect was apprehended a few blocks away.
As backup arrived, Wuller broke the glass door and ran upstairs. “I could hear two men inside saying ‘Where’s the money at?’” Wuller recalls. “I kicked the door in, and there was a masked man. I turned to the guy, and he turned on me with a revolver.”
Another intruder was on the floor, repeatedly stabbing a victim bound in duct tape. “As I was firing at the first guy, the other guy came running toward me with a knife.” Wuller fired 10 shots from his Glock 17, then retreated. When the SWAT team arrived moments later, the victim of the stabbing lay in a pool of blood on the floor. He was bleeding badly, but he was alive. His girlfriend and two children also were rescued from the apartment. Both of the robbers Wuller shot died at the scene; each had an extensive rap sheet for prior offenses.
“He did an amazing job,” says Capt. Deborah Kelly, who nominated Wuller for the award. “They were less than 10 feet away, and both were armed. It was very close quarters, and he got both of them down.”
A nine-year veteran of the force, Wuller has five previous merit citations, ranging from apprehending suspects in a homicide and catching robbers to helping rescue an elderly woman from a blaze. “I’ve had many close encounters,” he says, “but I never discharged my weapon before.”
Ten officers received honorable mention: Officer John Angle of the Mobile (Ala.) Police Department; Officer Gregory Durr of the Chicago Police Department; Sgt. Michael A. Lewis of the Maryland State Police; Officer Jason P. Oakes of the Wilmington (N.C.) Police Department; Officer Frank Tolerico of the Fontana (Calif.) Police Department; Officer William Bergantino of the Old Saybrook (Conn.) Police Department; Det. David Harris of the New York City Police Department; Officer Holly Mong of the Richmond (Texas) Police Department; Det. Gustavo Sanchez of the Miami Beach Police Department; and Sgt. Kirk Van Orsdel of the California Highway Patrol.
The Police Service Awards were established by Parade and the IACP in 1966 to focus attention on the dedicated men and women of our nation’s police force. They are given for specific acts of valor, consistent service above and beyond the call of duty, development of innovative programs, and significant service to the community apart from police work.