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Partnership for a Drug-Free Community awards Bell, Torello, Zivat

MADISON – Partnership for a Drug-Free Community held its Law Enforcement and Educator Awards luncheon at its annual board meeting on Oct. 20.

The event was staged at Redstone Federal Credit Union’s location in downtown Huntsville. The awards honor individuals who excel in drug prevention, related education, drug investigations and arrests.

A peacekeeper from local departments received the Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award: Officer Daniel Hutchison, Huntsville Police Department; Officer Blake Bell, Madison Police Department; Deputy Jesse Geer, Madison County Sheriff’s Office; and Officer Mark Zivat, Triana Police Department.

Officer Benjamin Johnson in Huntsville was honored with the Daniel Golden Memorial Law Enforcement Award.

The Billy Clardy III Memorial Award went to ACT Officer Stuart Hartley, Huntsville police and North Alabama Drug Task Force.

The Award of Excellence In Education recognized Carol Torello, Guidance Counselor, Madison City Schools and Jana Mason, Health Services Coordinator, Huntsville City Schools.

Lavell Everett, Buckhorn High School Principal with Madison County Schools, received the Gayle Owen Memorial Award of Excellence in Education. The Prosecutor Award went to Jon Hubbert, Assistant District Attorney with Madison County District Attorney’s Office.

The Juvenile Justice Award was presented to Bobby J. Tanner Jr., Juvenile Probation Officer with Neaves-Davis Center for Children. Paramedic Walter Daugherty received the First Responder Award; he works with Huntsville Emergency Medical Services Inc. or HEMSI.

A Madison resident and counselor with Madison City Schools, Carol Torello was recognized with the education award for her passionate work during 33 years. Torello is dedicated, upbeat and has a big heart for students, staff and the community, according to Superintendent Dr. Ed Nichols’ office.

Torello, along with the Restore, Inspire, Support & Engage or RISE Academy staff, was the driving force for the highest number of graduated seniors in academy history.

Torello’s nomination form described her as “an amazing educator . . . She has witnessed an increase in MCS students assigned to the alternative school because of vaping offenses over the past three years. She connected with Partnership to educate students on the dangers of vaping.”

In addition to coordinating education efforts on vaping’s dangers, Torello implemented “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” book study, partners with local restaurants to feed in-need students, helps student families find employment opportunities, conducts home visits to support students and counsels students on an array of issues.

Torello’s professional resume includes classroom teacher; speech and language pathologist for Decatur, Madison County and Madison City schools; and guidance counselor in Huntsville schools. “It’s easy to see that Mrs. Torello has a heart of gold and always goes above and beyond for her students and families,” according to her nomination.

Officer Blake Bell joined Madison Police Department in June 2018. His supervisors said Bell always has shown an interest in street-level narcotics and has reached out to senior police personnel for mentorship. In 2021, he became a Field Training Officer and began to assist with training recruits, including policing street-level narcotics.

Police Chief Johnny Gandy’s office cited a recent foot patrol with one of Bell’s recruits in a high crime area. Bell and his partner passed by an apartment with a strong odor of marijuana. Through his investigation and subsequent cooperation with the occupant, Bell recovered 1.1 pounds of marijuana, 6.7 grams of methamphetamine and 1.2 grams of fentanyl.

During a traffic stop, Bell developed probable cause for a search warrant and located 4.21 grams of fentanyl, which is trafficking under Alabama law. Bell also was involved heavily in a search warrant yielding 4 pounds of meth, 3.5 ounces of fentanyl and several ounces of ‘Ecstasy.’ He recovered a stolen firearm and $112,000.

“Bell has shown determination and daily desire to attack illegal narcotic activity in Madison,” according to his nomination.

In Triana, Officer Mark Zivit has an instinct to keep an area safe. He has been in law enforcement for 15 years.

“Zivit has demonstrated, by virtue of his deeds, that he can meet and exceed any law enforcement challenge presented to him,” Police Chief Gary Powell said. “He has a unique talent for smelling out a criminal element or a crime in progress and truly has what those in law enforcement often refer to as ‘the cop instinct’ that has affected several arrests for myriad crimes because of his personal drive and initiative.”

On several occasions, Officer Zivit has taken it upon himself to set up traffic control points and conduct vehicle identification checks. Invariably, he can identify violations of the law and make an arrest. This scenario has motivated his fellow officers in Triana.

Zivit’s attitude is that “somewhere out there, a criminal act is being committed, and I’m going to find it or find someone who needs help.”

A firm believer in community policing, Zivit always stops driving and leaves his vehicle at school bus stops. He talks to youth about dangerous drugs, alcohol and tobacco, especially vapes.

He has responded to numerous drug overdoses. Zivit uses his training and expertise to assess situations. Several times, he has revived victims with his medical knowledge and by using CPR.

One special occasion that touched Zivit and the community involved a three-month-old girl. She had been born addicted to amphetamines. When an emergency call was issued, the infant was not breathing and had no pulse.

Zivit’s quick thinking and knowledge to clear the baby’s airway, along with CPR, helped revive the baby before medical personnel arrived. He continues to make monthly checks on this young girl, who is now his unofficial Godchild.

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