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State Police Employees Honored for Dedication and Service

Michigan State Police (MSP) Director Col. Joe Gasper today recognized D/Sgt. Ben Mahaffie as the 2022 Dr. Carl A. Gerstacker Trooper of the Year, MC Ofcr. Joshua Koch as the 2022 Motor Carrier Officer of the Year, Ms. Hanna Friedlander as the 2022 Floyd R. Bell Jr. Civilian of the Year and Ms. Josephine Klotz as the 2022 Ernest W. Banning Memorial Retiree of the Year.

Graphic of photos of all three of the year award winners

“Today’s ceremony is an excellent reminder of why we have chosen this career of service,” said Gasper. My fellow department members care immensely about their coworkers, the communities we serve and the residents of Michigan. I am honored to work alongside people committed to giving their best day after day.”

Trooper of the Year

D/Sgt. Ben Mahaffie of the Fifth District’s Benton Harbor Major Case Unit was named Trooper of the Year. When nominated, he was serving as a sergeant at the Paw Paw Post. The Gerstacker Trooper of the Year Award recognizes the MSP trooper or sergeant who symbolizes outstanding professional ethics, dedication to duty and a concern for giving back to their community. The late Dr. Carl A. Gerstacker, former chairman of Dow Chemical Company, created the award in 1961.

Mahaffie takes immense pride in officer safety and is a Below 100 trainer, bringing awareness to fellow troopers about how we can eliminate preventable line-of-duty deaths. He was recognized twice in 2022 for his exceptional actions on-duty helping save the lives of two citizens. 

At the Paw Paw Post, he oversaw the field training officer program for five new troopers and excelled in the field with the number of complaints he took.

The squad he supervised was described as cohesive, competent and family-based, notably holding extra “mini” training sessions every other month to better prepare themselves for things like active shooter scenarios, critical incident reviews and traffic crash investigations. Because Mahaffie is involved with the department’s language translator and interpreter program, and speaks several languages himself, he also assisted with teaching squad members basic Spanish skills as well.

In his community, Mahaffie serves as president of the Niles chapter of STOP, the State Trooper Outreach Partnership, which is a trooper-led non-profit organization dedicated to helping those in need. Additionally, he established a migrant outreach program with the goal of building a stronger relationship between the area’s migrant farming population and police.

Mahaffie enlisted with the MSP in 2014, graduating as a member of the 127th Trooper Recruit School. Prior to serving on the Major Case Unit, he served at the Paw Paw Post, as a member of the Fifth District Fugitive Team and at the Niles Post. 

Motor Carrier Officer of the Year

MC Ofcr. Joshua Koch of the Caro Post was named Motor Carrier Officer of the Year. The Motor Carrier Officer of the Year Award recognizes the MSP motor carrier officer who symbolizes outstanding professional ethics, dedication to duty and concern for giving back to their community.

Koch serves as a field training officer, in addition to his daily duties as a motor carrier officer and is known to coworkers as a high performer with an excellent work ethic.

In a one-year period, he completed 393 vehicle safety inspections, seeking out overweight vehicles that pose a danger to traffic safety.

In his community, Officer Koch contributes his skills as a soccer and baseball coach, and a mentor of young athletes. He participates in annual volleyball and softball leagues, is very active in his church and an outreach program involving children with autism.

Koch has helped raise money for Special Olympics by doing the polar plunge and he volunteers at a local brain injury rehab facility by taking residents on outings.

Koch enlisted with the MSP in 2019, graduating as a member of the 24th Motor Carrier Officer Recruit School.

Civilian of the Year

Ms. Hanna Friedlander of the Intelligence Operations Division was named Civilian of the Year. The MSP Civilian of the Year Award is named in honor of the late Floyd R. Bell Jr., a 42-year employee of the MSP, who continuously demonstrated commitment and dedication to the department and his community.

Friedlander serves as the department’s Human Remains Analyst aiding in identifying previously unidentified individuals and assisting our specialty teams in the field in the search and recovery of human remains. She’s also involved in a pilot project tied to forensic genetic genealogy which, with the assistance of outside experts and organizations, uses DNA databases and family trees to point investigators to who they’re hoping to identify. 

During her time at the MSP, she has also developed and grown the tribal consultation and Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation (NAGPRA) aspects of her position to help return ancestral human remains. She also serves on the Michigan Mortuary Response Team board for Michigan-based disaster response and recovery.

In her personal time, Friedlander enjoys recreation league sports and trivia, and she is president of the Young Jewish Professionals organization in Lansing.

Friedlander joined the MSP in 2018.

Retiree of the Year

Ms. Josephine Klotz was named the MSP Retiree of the Year. The MSP Retiree of the Year Award is named in memory of Ernest Banning, whose career with the department spanned nearly 50 years.

Klotz was a staple in the department for nearly 30 years and was assigned to the Director’s Office when she retired in 2018.

In retirement, Klotz has volunteered countless hours at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing comforting babies. She and her husband, also retired from the department, deliver food for Meals on Wheels and she has volunteered her time as an election poll worker.

Klotz joined the MSP in 1989.

Valor Award

D/Tpr. David Tasker, assigned to the Second District’s Metro Narcotics Enforcement Team, was honored with the Valor Award, the department’s highest recognition, which is only awarded in exceptional circumstances when a member risks their life in performing a hazardous duty so extraordinary that the exposure to peril is above and beyond the call of duty. The last Valor Award was given posthumously to Tpr. Kevin Marshall in 2003 and last awarded to a living member in 1958.

In the overnight hours of Sept. 27, 2022, Tasker and team member D/Sgt. Devin Kachar were working an undercover surveillance operation when Kachar was ambushed, shot and severely injured.  The shots came from an unknown elevated location, while Kachar was on the ground. With zero hesitation, Tasker rushed to help, knowingly placing himself in danger, even while the shooter was still a threat. 

Tasker came out from a position of cover to retrieve Kachar who had sustained life-threatening injuries that prevented him from getting to safety under his own power. Once he had secured him, he immediately loaded him into a vehicle and drove him to the nearest hospital. 

While leaving the scene, Tasker surveyed the area and noticed the shades moving from the possible shooting suspect’s apartment, which he was able to later convey to detectives investigating the shooting. 

Thanks in part to this information, the suspects were arrested within seven hours of the shooting. 

But more importantly, due to the quick and brave actions of Tasker, his team member survived and continues his recovery today.