County Executive Thomas P. Gordon announces that U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder selected fallen Lieutenant Joseph L. Szczerba of the New Castle County Police Department to receive a 2011 Congressional Badge Of Bravery. The family of Lt. Szczerba will participate during the presentation ceremony and receive the Congressional Badge of Bravery from Delaware’s Congressional delegation (Sen. T. Carper, Sen. C. Coons, Rep. J. Carney). Today’s presentation ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. at the Paul J. Sweeney New Castle County Public Safety Building, 3601 N. DuPont Hwy, New Castle, DE 19720. New Castle County participants include Director of Public Safety, Joseph Bryant, Jr., Colonel Elmer Setting, Chief of the New Castle County Police Department, and Acting Chief Administrative Officer James McDonald on behalf of County Executive Gordon who is presently out of the country.
On September 16, 2011, the date of Officer Szczerba’s death, he was 44 years old and an 18-year veteran of the New Castle County Police Department. County Executive Tom Gordon recalls hiring Officer Szczerba in 1994 while serving as the Chief of the New Castle County Police Department. “We honor Lt. Joe Szczerba, a fallen member of our great New Castle County Police Department” Gordon said. ”Today the rest of the nation knows what we all have known. Joe is a true hero. It is tragic to lose an officer, but Joe’s spirit lives on. He will be an inspiration to all future generations of our officers as they enter the Police Academy named in Lt. Szczerba’s honor. On behalf of NCC residents, I thank Lt. Szczerba for his service and thank his wife, mother, and family members for sharing this great man with all of us. He made the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of others. I am proud to be his brethren. On this day and each day, we thank all those who serve in uniform, as well as their families, for their commitment to New Castle County communities.”
A description of the circumstances for which Lieutenant Joseph L. Szczerba is being honored follows: Sgt. Szczerba was killed in the line of duty. The New Castle County Police Department responded to a report of a subject who had been involved in thefts from motor vehicles in the area. He was the first to respond to a scene that was very chaotic when he arrived. A victim had been attempting to detain the suspect and had been stabbed by the suspect. Sergeant Szczerba arrived, approached the suspect, and ordered him to the ground. The suspect refused to comply. A foot pursuit ensued. Sergeant Szczerba deployed his electronic control device and attempted to take the suspect into custody. Sergeant Szczerba was stabbed repeatedly. Two stab wounds were to his neck. He was mortally wounded, yet he remained engaged with the suspect and detained him until additional officers arrived. Sergeant Szczerba collapsed and became unconscious. Efforts to save Sergeant Szczerba were unsuccessful. The injuries proved to be fatal. Sergeant Szczerba was posthumously promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.
Law enforcement officers engage in exceptional acts of bravery while in the line of duty. These acts sometime place the officers involved at personal risk. Congress passed the Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-298), creating the Federal Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery and the State and Local Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery to honor law enforcement officer acts of bravery. Under the Act, two separate categories of this award were created:
1. Federal Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery; and
2. State and Local Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery.
On behalf of the New Castle County Police Department and at the request of former Chief, Colonel Mike McGowan, Major Robert Becker posthumously nominated Lt. Szczerba’s for a State and Local Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery by submitting a description of the tragic incident for which Lt. Szczerba is being honored through the Congressional Badge of Bravery nominating system. The Congressional Badge of Bravery Office received the application on behalf of the State and Local Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery Board. The Office staff provides support to the Board. The Congressional Badge of Bravery Office is located within the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance.
The State and Local Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery Board reviewed the nomination and recommended Lt. Szczerba to U. S. Attorney Eric Holder for recognition for acts of bravery that were performed during the period beginning on January 1, 2011 and ending on December 31, 2011. The U.S. Attorney General has cited 21 recipients for the 2011 Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery. Lt. Szczerba is one of only ten State and Local Law Enforcement officers throughout the nation selected by Attorney General Holder for this recognition. Eleven Federal Law Enforcement officers were selected. The Congressional Badge of Bravery is presented to Law Enforcement officers for performing acts of bravery while in the line of duty.
If you would like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with County Executive Thomas P. Gordon, please call James McDonald at (302) 395-5101.