by Phil Tennerelli
On November 5, 2011, the Italian American Police Association of Illinois held its 48th annual awards dinner. This gala event attended by over 500 people was held at Alta Villa Banquets in Addison.
The evening began with the Illinois State Police Honor Guard posting of the colors followed by an invocation by the Rev. Gino Dalpiaz. The opening speech was given by IAPA President Tony Langone, after which our Master of Ceremonies, the Hon. Sam Amirante, took over. After a spectacular dinner the following awards were proudly handed out.
POs David G Hickey, Joseph Bigane, Juan Perez and Jeff Pacocha (Awards of Valor)
On the 26 February 2011 POs David Hickey, Joseph Bigane and Juan Perez were assigned to the Chicago Police Department’s Gang Investigation Section conducting a covert surveillance of a group of offenders who were suspected in multiple drug related robberies and homicides. The offenders were observed entering the multi unit building at 5841 N Winthrop and they remained there for a period of time. The offenders were then observed leaving the location and a few moments later there was a call over the police radio of shots fired at that location. An undercover officer entered the building and learned that there were three homicide victims at this location. An order was given to stop the auto in which the offenders were driving and POs Hickey and Bigane attempted to stop the offenders who upon seeing the police fired handguns in their direction and at the squad car to make good their escape. The Officers, fearing for their safety, returned fire. PO Hickey was subsequently shot in the leg and their police car was shot and disabled. PO Perez along with other Officers took up the pursuit and the offender’s auto continued northbound on Broadway and then turned westbound onto Devon. The offender’s auto attempted to turn southbound onto Greenview and lost control striking an electric box. PO Perez approached the offender’s auto from driver’s side and Pacocha from the passenger side of auto and the Officers ordered the offenders to raise their hands and remain in the auto. The driver raised a handgun pointing it directly at PO Perez. PO Pacocha and Perez, fearing for their safety, each fired, striking the offender. The remaining two offenders were ordered to raise their hands and remain in the auto but refused and attempted to flee from the auto. An ambulance was requested for the offender who was shot and he was dead upon their arrival. The two remaining offenders were transported to Area 3 Detective headquarters. A subsequent investigation revealed that the offenders were responsible for three (3) homicides at 5841 N Winthrop and may be responsible as many as 12 unsolved homicides city wide. Due to POs Hickey, Bigane, Perez and Pacocha dedication to duty and courage in a difficult situation resulted in three hardcore criminals being removed from the streets of Chicago. The valor which was displayed by these Police Officers is in the finest traditions of the Law Enforcement Profession.
POs Nicholas Cortesi and Ryan Rosenthal (Awards of Valor)
PO Nicholas Cortesi 15112 and his partner Ryan Rosenthal 7660 on 28 January 2011 were assigned to the Mobile Strike Force working a mission in the 010th District. The Officers received information of drug sales on the street at 2200 S Kolin and went to this location to investigate. Upon arrival, they observed the offender and they set up surveillance at this location. The Officers observed several persons approach the offender, engage in a short conversation, and hand an item to the offender. The offender then walked to a gangway and returned to the person waiting and handed him an item. The Officers believed that they had witnessed a drug transaction. PO Cortesi had concealed himself beneath some plywood and tree branches to obtain a better visual of the next transaction and attempted to move to a different location. PO Cortesi, while moving, inadvertently broke a tree branch alerting the offender of PO Cortesi’s movement and presence. The offender exited the gangway and stared at PO Cortesi’s place of concealment. The offender approached Cortesi’s location to seek out the noise he heard. PO Cortesi remained concealed and observed the offender approach holding a handgun. PO Cortesi left his concealment and announced his office and ordered the offender to drop the gun. The offender refused to comply and subsequently raised the handgun and PO Cortesi fearing for his life fired his duty weapon striking the offender in the arm. The offender instead of dropping the weapon continued to hold the gun and fled on foot with PO Cortesi and Rosenthal in foot pursuit. The offender ran a short distance, stopped, turned and pointed the weapon a second time at both Police Officers. PO Cortesi fearing for the safety of PO Rosenthal again fired striking the offender in the face neutralizing the offender. POs Cortesi and Rosenthal placed the offender into custody and called for an ambulance. The handgun which the offender was armed with was a fully loaded Colt .357 magnum revolver and was recovered on the scene. The offender was transported to an area hospital where he was treated and survived his wounds to stand trial. A further investigation by the Area 4 detectives revealed that the offender was a convicted felon and was charged with the Aggravated Assault of a Police Officer and Unlawful Use of a Weapon by a Felon. Due to PO Nicholas Cortesi and Ryan Rosenthal’s dedication to duty and courage in a difficult situation a dangerous offender who had no regard for authority or the laws of society was removed from the streets of Chicago. Therefore it is with great pride that Chicago Police Officer’s Nicholas Cortesi and Ryan Rosenthal be given the Italian American Police Association Award of Valor.
Joseph Panico (Humanitarian Award)
Joseph Panico joined the Chicago Police Department in November 1968, and during the course of his career served in a variety of assignments, including patrol, tactical unit, and undercover assignments in vice and as a canine handler.
In 2000, the Chicago Police Department was experiencing an alarming increase in the number of police suicides and alcohol related problems with their officers. In response, the department formed the Employee Assistance Program, which included the Professional Counseling Service and the alcohol counseling unit. The Peer Support Program was also formed and assigned to the EAP. Made up of volunteer officers from across the department, the program assists fellow officers with their day-to-day problems.
Upon learning of this newly formed unit, Joe volunteered to take part while fulfilling his regular duties as a canine handler. Joe’s dedication to his fellow police officers was quite evident from the start, and he had a huge success rate with those he encountered, contributing in no small part to the program’s expansion.
Joe’s talents as a natural leader were recognized by the Department, which subsequently assigned him to the Professional Counseling Unit of the Chicago Police Department’s Employee Assistance Program, where he became the program manager of the Peer Support Program.
During his time as program manger, Joe assisted hundreds if not thousands of Chicago Police Officers and their families with their issues, personal problems and tragedies. He was always available, responding to countless incidents of police officers who were seriously injured (on and off duty) at hospital emergency rooms tending to the families and partners.
Joe responded to all incidents in which a police officer was killed, assisting wherever he was needed, whether at the hospital or the actual crime scene. He would follow up on every incident by conducting roll calls in the affected district to comfort and console the officers and by holding debriefing sessions after the traumatic incident with the officers who were involved.
Joe truly earned the title “Chicago’s Finest” through his leadership, professionalism, determination and selflessness while assisting his fellow Chicago Police Officers during the most difficult of situations.
Michael Fedanzo (Man of the Year Award)
Michael Fedanzo was born on the West Side of Chicago on Oct. 4 1947, near Chicago Ave and Pulaski. He is married to Jan and has two children, Joe and Jennifer, and four grandchildren: Danielle, Mike, Nicholas, and Gianna. He also has two step-children, Lauren and Brian. Mike attended Our Lady of the Angels Grade School and is a survivor of the 1958 OLA school fire. He graduated from St. Michael’s High School in 1965. He entered the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers apprenticeship program in 1968.
In the early ’70s, Mike was a volunteer police officer for the Illinois Police Reserve Unit. In 1975, he went to work for the City of Chicago at O’Hare International Airport. During that period, he also owned and operated a festival business for all of the major fests in the Chicago area (The Red Hot Corner). He also held a real estate license during that time with Re/Max Realty Company.
In 1995, Mike was appointed as a business agent for Local 134 IBEW. His duties were to represent and negotiate contracts for the Local 134 members who held positions with the City of Chicago, Cook County, State of Illinois, Chicago Park District, Cook County Forest Preserve District, and the Chicago Transit Authority as well as several private companies. He was also a delegate to the Chicago Federation of Labor, the Chicago Port Council and the Unions Labor Management Committee. He retired from the Union in December of 2009.
He currently owns and operates the Illinois Investigative Group, a private detective agency that assists major law firms in the Chicago area. Mike is also the president of the Italian American Labor Council of Chicago. The IALC assists and provides networking opportunities to members of all nationalities.
“Our directors and membership consist of some of the finest union labor leaders, union members, attorneys, financial advisors, dentists, real estate advisors, and independent business owners in the country,” Mike notes. “As Italians, we understand that there is nothing more important than family.”
Mike invites you to become part of the IALC family by visiting chicagoialc.com.
The Italian American Police Association salutes each and every one of our awardees and thanks them very much for their service to the citizens of the great state of Illinois.