New program in Baldwin Borough honors top cops
Sean Biagini will go to nearly any extreme to catch a criminal — even if it means hiding alongside Dumpsters or carefully reviewing the dirt on a vehicle's tires that ultimately led to an arrest.
“It's like a cat and mouse. I come to work with the mindset that there's at least one criminal out there that I need to find that night . . . so far I haven't had to hide in a Dumpster, yet,” said Biagini, who acknowleged that his colleagues often joke about his somewhat creative antics to catch Baldwin Borough's most-wanted in the act.
But it's that mindset, and willingness to do whatever it takes as a police officer that has netted Biagini numerous awards and commendations, including a letter of recognition from the Terrorist Screening Center in Washington D.C. in 2010, the Pennsylvania DUI Association Top Gun Award in 2009 and a certificate of appreciation from Womansplace for his efforts regarding abused women and victims of domestic violence.
In the Baldwin Borough police department, where Biagini has worked since 2002, he now, too, is being recognized.
Chief Michael Scott recently presented Biagini with the Meritorious Service Award for his accomplishments, along with a Certificate of Commendation. The recognitions are a part of a new program Scott has started to recognize officers in the Baldwin Borough police department for exemplary work. Biagini, 43, is the second Baldwin officer to be recognized as a part of the program.
“He could get an award every week for something he does,” Scott said. “He seems to stand out all of the time.”
As he leafs through police reports each week, Scott said, he repeatedly finds instances where Biagini went “above and beyond,” looking into a case a little closer than it was required or taking an extra step to ensure he gets the right answers.
“It's his constant striving for perfection,” Scott said.
Biagini, who grew up in Clairton, said he worked nearly every job as a youngster, from a pizza shop to a gun club and a stint at the Steamfitters Union.
Watching his classmates get into trouble and get arrested, Biagini always had a desire, he said, to do something different. He wanted to be a police officer.
“Growing up and seeing those types of things. People in my classes were getting arrested,” he said. “I wanted to make a difference.”
Biagini spent three years working as a police officer in Clairton, before getting a job with the Pittsburgh Housing Authority. He then spent three years as a police officer in Brentwood, before coming to Baldwin.
His interest, no matter what the case, always has been in solving narcotics crimes, he said. He's been involved in numerous task forces for the District Attorney and Drug Enforcement Administration.
Working the night shift in Baldwin Borough, he has come across many things, including people on the terrorist watch list and those narcotics cases.
“There have been many things that most people wouldn't expect,” he said. “Like somebody standing on a bridge wanting to end it. There's just been so many involvements with so many people at their best sometimes and at their worst.”
Biagini said he never just sits back and waits for the calls to come in.
“You can go along in this job and try to react to the calls or you can” be proactive, he said.
His work apprehending a man attempting to enter a Pittsburgh business with a gun, developing information to track down a stolen hand gun and stopping a vehicle with a mixture of old and fresh dirt on its tires leaving the “40 Acres” site that led to the finding of stolen materials, were noted by Scott in the Certificate of Commendation for his efforts going “above and beyond.”
Biagini, who has made 1,482 arrests and issued 1,704 traffic citations since joining the Baldwin police force, is always up to date on case law and willing to work with other officers, Scott said.
“He's just very passionate about what he does and wanting to be the best,” Scott said.
Biagini always is seeking out training, Scott said, noting the officer will come to him with an idea for a class at the same time the chief is preparing to send him to the same training.
“It's hard for me to keep up with him,” Scott said.
It's exemplary work, like Biagini's, that Scott said he wants to recognize with the new program he has started.
Scott, who worked as a lieutenant with Pittsburgh police before coming to Baldwin, said the program is similar to the one used in the city.
Before, in Baldwin, officer recognitions were “sort of hit or miss,” Scott said.
“If I'd see a report that I thought it deserved something, then I'd recognize them,” he said.
That, came in the form of a computer generated certificate that simply was placed into the officer's file.
Now, the recognition of officers will be more organized — and take place in front of borough council where they can bring their friends and family.
The hope is to have a panel of supervisors and officers in place in the next few weeks that will review officer's actions on a regular basis to recognize exemplary work and behavior.
Ribbons, then, will be given to the officers recognized.
The ribbons include the Medal of Valor, which an officer could receive for putting themselves in danger for the well being of another; the Merit of Service, for career accomplishments or significant accomplishments; and Certificate of Commendation, for going out of their way to pursue a case. There also is the Purple Heart and ribbons for officers who are firearms instructors, members of the Critical Incident Response Team, field training or K-9 officer, as well as those who have a “safe driving” record.
These awards help to balance out the negatives of the job, Scott said.
“It shouldn't all be one sided,” Scott said. “It recognizes them when they do good.”
Baldwin Borough police Detective Anthony Cortazzo was the first to be recognized under the new program. He received a Meritorious Service Award for his work.
Cortazzo does an exceptional job as a detective and juvenile officer, Scott said.
In 2012, Cortazzo received the “Above and Beyond” award from A Child's Place at Mercy Hospital for his work investigating child abuse.
Cortazzo has participated in more than 120 forensic interviews of children where sexual or physical abuse was suspected. Of those cases, all but one ended in pleas or guilty verdicts, Scott said.
He also was vital in the investigation of the Becks Run Independent Fire Company, where two of its leaders were charged with theft, Scott said.
For Cortazzo, being recognized by the chief is appreciated.
“I think the program is a nice way for officers to be recognized for the work that they do on a daily basis. There are many officers in our department who do an excellent job, and they should be recognized for that work,” he said. “Police officers know that people call us when they need help. It's always been our goal to give each of those the best effort we can. It's an honor to have the chief acknowledge the work I do.”
Biagini, too, said he appreciates the recognition, although he admits he was embarrassed by it.
“You go to work thinking you're just doing your job and someone else thinks you're doing something special,” Biagini said. “For my kids, I'd like to say that I at least tried.”
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.