NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision 

Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

2012 Medal of Merit Recipients

Bronx Area Community Supervision Office

Medal of Honor
Karen Gormley, Senior Parole Officer

On September 2, 2011, a Parole Officer Team was having difficulty entering a Bronx apartment to search for an absconder so the team contacted Senior Parole Officer (SPO) Karen Gormley for guidance. Realizing the team might need additional assistance, she proceeded to the location and developed and coordinated a plan to apprehend the absconder. The Team entered the apartment and, as the absconder was being placed into custody, a struggle ensued and the absconder gained control of a firearm. SPO Gormley approached the absconder who was pointing the loaded weapon at her. The officers and the absconder fell to the floor leaving SPO Gormley bleeding from a blow to the head. SPO Gormley poked the absconder in the eyes, at which point he released the firearm and the absconder was placed under arrest.

During the course of this action, SPO Gormley demonstrated superior leadership, exceptional courage and tremendous professionalism to bring a potentially dangerous incident to a decisive end.

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Five Points Correctional Facility

Medal of Merit
Robert Shields, Sergeant
(Mr. Shields is presently a Lieutenant at Elmira Correctional Facility)

On April 26, 2011, then-Sergeant Robert Shields was fishing with his two young sons on the Seneca River in the town of Seneca Falls, New York. While fishing they heard a woman crying out for help. The three of them got into their truck and crossed the bridge to the other side of the river where they discovered a woman struggling in the cold swift river. Sergeant Shields tied a rope around his waist and attempted to get the woman to hold onto the other end. The woman was too cold to hold onto the rope so they attempted to get a ladder to her. Their rescue attempts continued for approximately 20 minutes until the Red Jacket Fire Department arrived. According to the Fire Chief Allen Larsen when they arrived, Sergeant Shields was leaning over the edge of the river on his stomach holding onto the woman while his sons held onto his legs and feet. With the additional help, they were able to safely retrieve the woman out of the water. She was treated for severe hypothermia and chest pains.

Sergeant Shields, without regard for his own safety, came to the immediate assistance of a stranger in extreme danger. His action exemplifies his commitment to selflessly assisting others and his exceptional representation of the employees of our Department.

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Ulster Correctional Facility

Medal of Merit
John Iocovello, Correction Officer

On August 28, 2011, due to the significant and rapid rainfall caused by Hurricane Irene, Ulster Correctional Facility experienced a major disruption in services including an electrical power outage, forcing the facility to convert to generator power. As heavy rains continued, the waterway between Ulster and Eastern New York correctional facilities began to overflow its banks due to violent floods pouring down from a reservoir on the mountain behind the facility. Eventually, approximately 1/3 of the facility was flooded to the point where three inmate housing units had to be evacuated to another area of the facility and the facility generator became inoperable, leaving the facility without any power.

As staff was assessing flood damage and the integrity of the facility perimeter, facility Sergeant Tod Carter and Correction Officer John Iocovello observed a tremendous amount of debris obstructing the water flow under a small bridge at the northwestern entrance to the facility and determined this was contributing to the flooding of the facility. Under increasingly dangerous weather conditions, Correction Officer Iocovello immediately volunteered to operate the facility backhoe and began removing the debris. Correction Officer Iocovello then diverted the flow of water from the facility by creating trenches just southwest of the bridge and on the northeast corner where there was another waterway behind the facility.

Due to Correction Officer Iocovello's actions, the majority of the flooding was eventually diverted from the facility and its electrical power was eventually restored. Without electrical power and the impending nightfall, all of the nearly 900 offenders as well as the staff would have had to be evacuated, which, under these circumstances, would have been extremely difficult and dangerous.

Correction Officer Iocovello's actions went well above and beyond his normal duty assignment as a Correction Officer and are considered exceptional and extraordinary.

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Woodbourne Correctional Facility
Sullivan Correctional Facility

Medal of Merit
William Tolli, Correction Officer
Michael Cassidy, Correction Officer

On August 29, 2011, Correction Officer William Tolli was on his way to work when he observed a serious one car rollover accident. Correction Officer Tolli called 911 and without hesitation went to help the driver who was found suspended by his seatbelt and unconscious in the vehicle. The vehicle was upside down, still running and had smoke coming out of it. Correction Officer Tolli broke out the back window of the vehicle, crawled inside, shut off the engine and unlocked the doors.

With the assistance of Correction Officer Mike Cassidy of the Sullivan Correctional Facility, who had also come upon the accident, they were able to release the seatbelt and lower the unconscious driver down thus taking the weight off of his head and neck which was resting against the roof. They moved him to an area a safe distance away from his vehicle. Correction Officers Tolli and Cassidy remained with the driver until the ambulance and EMT's arrived and the driver was transported to the hospital then airlifted to a trauma center. The driver was later identified as Nicholas Chalk, Supervising Correction Counselor, Woodbourne Correctional Facility.

Correction Officers Tolli and Cassidy, without regard for their own safety, came to the immediate assistance of a stranger who they later found out to be a fellow Department employee. Their actions exemplify the caliber of the employees in our Department, as well as their exceptional contribution to public service.

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