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Above and beyond

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In April, officer Michael Werner was called to a Northwest Albuquerque home because a teenage girl said she was not being fed, was in fear for her life and wanted to hurt herself. She said she had been abused and neglected by her parents and grandmother, and was about to be homeless.

So Werner, a 20-year veteran with the Albuquerque Police Department, spent the next several hours trying to find somewhere for the 16-year-old to go. He found her places to stay for several weeks, attended meetings with the state’s Children, Youth and Families Department, acted as her educational advocate, and drove her to and from school.

Now, the girl is living with a foster family in Edgewood, attending school, going to doctor’s appointments and seeing a therapist. She calls Werner her “cop dad” and was with him on stage Monday afternoon when he received a True Blue Award from the Daniels Fund charitable foundation for going above and beyond the call of duty.

“I see her every other day,” Werner told the Journal after the ceremony. “I take her to school, pick her up, take her out to eat. I will be part of her life until I’m dead.”

The True Blue Awards recognize officers throughout New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming; this is the third year the award has been presented in Albuquerque.

This year, Werner and two other APD officers, Renae Roybal and Bernadette Sanchez, were honored for their compassionate acts.

Roybal and Sanchez have been best friends for the past 10 years and joined APD less than five years ago.

In early August, they responded to a 911 hang-up call and found a 90-year-old woman who was disoriented, overheated, and had fallen and injured her shoulder. Sanchez and Roybal discovered her air-conditioning unit was not working and it was nearly 100 degrees in the home.

So they went to Lowe’s Home Improvement store and bought fans for the home. Then, Sanchez’s brother – who owns a heating and cooling company – came over and repaired the woman’s AC.

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Officers Bernadette Sanchez, left, and Renae Roybal, right, escort a 90-year-old woman to an awards ceremony. The two officers bought fans for the woman and helped her get her air conditioner set up after finding her disoriented and overheated at home. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

“The officers returned the following day to check on her,” said APD chief of staff John Ross. “Her home was nice and cool, and she repeatedly expressed her gratitude for the officers going above and beyond the normal duties to help her.”

Linda Childears, president and CEO of the Daniels Fund, said that, over the years, the foundation has found these types of compassionate acts of kindness happen every day.

“Police officers are the hardest ones in the world to find out about because you all are so very humble and don’t want to tell anybody,” she said. “They say ‘aw shucks it’s no big deal.’ We think it is a big deal and we are delighted to be able to partner with the police department to give some recognition to these folks today.”

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