Copperas Cove PD promotes seven officers on Friday
By LYNETTE SOWELL
The social hall at Holy Family Catholic Church served as the setting for a promotion ceremony on Friday afternoon when the Copperas Cove Police Department recognized seven officers for moving up in the ranks.
Among them were Tasha Gerken, Gabriel Cardona, Cory Schmidt, Danny Belk, Jeremy Alber, Brian Wyers and Jeffrey Stoddard. Family, friends, and colleagues turned out to celebrate with the seven officers.
Copperas Cove Chief of Police Eddie Wilson first recognized the spouses and family members of the personnel being promoted, for their support in helping the officers do what they do every day, and for being the ones who help them through struggles.
Wilson called the promotions on Friday a “historic” event.
“We’ve never promoted two deputy chiefs at the same time, two lieutenants at the same time, along with two sergeants and one corporal on the same day,” Wilson said.
Both Lt. Jeffrey Stoddard and Lt. Brian Wyers were officially promoted to the rank of deputy chief of police in Copperas Cove. Wilson remarked that both have already been fulfilling those duties for at least a year now. Stoddard has been with the department since 1991, and Wyers has been with the department since 1995.
Wyers’ wife and son were at the ceremony, with his son pinning his rank and badge on his shirt. Although his parents were unable to be present, they did send a letter which was read to him by Gretchen McWhorter, who worked with Wyers in the Criminal Investigation Division of the department.
Stoddard’s wife, Trish, pinned his rank and his badge on his shirt. Although his parents weren’t able to be present for the ceremony, his father sent a silver dollar, a prize Stoddard had won as a child, for Wilson to present to Stoddard.
Two more officers moved up to the rank of lieutenant, Jeremy Albers and Gabriel Cardona.
Gabriel Cardona began with the department in 2007 and works in special operations at the department and is a member of the SWAT team. Wilson said Cardona took it upon himself to learn as much as he could about administration, not only of the department, but the city itself—something Wilson said was “rare” for an officer.
Albers began with the department in 2000, was promoted to corporal in 2005, then sergeant in 2007. He was assigned to the organized crime unit in 2011 and began training personnel in 2014, not a “glamorous or fun” job like others in the department, Wilson said.
Corey Schmidt and Daniel Belk were promoted to the rank of sergeant, the first line leader in each shift.
Schmidt began with the department in 2000, then was called to active duty from 2003-2005, after which he returned to the department. He was promoted to corporal in 2011 and is on the SWAT team. Wilson said he thinks of the word “perseverance” when it comes to Schmidt.
Belk began with the department in 2008 and was promoted to corporal in 2011. He serves on the department’s honor guard and is a graduate of the Law Enforcement Management Institute’s Leadership Command College.
Rounding out the promotions was Tasha Gerken, who was promoted to the rank of corporal.
Wilson said when both she and her identical twin sister walked into the department to talk to him about becoming police officers., Wilson, who was in charge of training and recruitment at that time, said he knew “right away that both of them would one day be quality police officers for the department.”
Gerken first began with the department in 2008, was called to active duty from 2010-2013, after which she was reinstated at the department. She is a member of the honor guard and has her advanced peace officer certification.
Wilson also talked about the assessment process for those seeking to be promoted, calling it “grueling,” that at the end of every day candidates are wiped out, emotionally drained in the process.
“It’s tough because we want to make sure we’re getting the right candidate for the position.”
Wilson thanked the assessors involved in the process for those promoted, which included Ryan Haverlah, budget director/deputy city manager for the City of Copperas Cove; Lt. Daniel McGuire, Belton Police Department; Lt. Loretta Fox, Harker Heights Police Department; and Lt. Tony Lawrence, Killeen Police Department.
Wilson talked about the growth of the department and said as the training officer, Lt. Alber has been instrumental in helping build the force, with 13 new officers having started at the department in the last 18 months.
“This is a big transition time for our department,” said Wilson. Friday’s promotions have also included some shifting of assignments for some of the sergeants, he added.
Sgt. Lester Nace is going to be the newest member of the department’s organized crime unit, and Sgt. Martin Ruiz, who has been the community relations officer, will be overseeing personnel training.
Sgt. Steve O’Neal will be taking Nace’s spot in Criminal Investigations. Replacing Ruiz as the community relations officer will be Sgt. Kevin Miller for the position that Wilson called “the face of our department.”
After the ceremony concluded, the seven promoted officers were congratulated with a reception in the social hall.