UCF Public Safety celebrated the achievements of officers, staff members and community partners at their annual awards ceremony hosted by the former voice of the Knights, Erik Kohler.

Each year, the department recognizes winners of their life-saving and Of the Year awards — who are featured more in depth below. Winners of commendations, community partnership awards and physical abilities awards are also recognized at the ceremony.

After being nominated and voted on by their peers, winners were selected and reviewed by award committee members.

2023 Of the Year and Life-saving Award Winners

Chief Carl Metzger ’03MS (left), Clery Compliance Analyst Debbie Pope (middle) and Deputy Chief Robin Griffin-Kitzerow (right). (Photo by Jordan Smith)
Civilian Employee of the Year: Debbie Pope

Debbie Pope has one of the most difficult positions in the department, yet seems to manage it with ease and grace. She studied vigorously to attain her Clery Compliance Officer Certification — becoming the first person to ever achieve this prestigious status at UCF — and has successfully created and launched a Clery Compliance Webcourses training module. To determine who needed to take this required training, she led the effort for the Campus Security Authority (CSA) Identification project, working alongside HR and Compliance to review thousands of job codes at UCF to identify potential CSAs on campus. Pope is fiercely passionate about coordinating fundraising events to support Special Olympics and has worked with them on both a local and national level to bring ideas and enthusiasm to their mission.

Civilian Supervisor of the Year: Michael Charles
Dispatch Supervisor Michael Charles. (Photo courtesy of the UCF Police Department)

Michael Charles has been a part of the public safety team for more than 20 years, consistently leading by example. With staffing shortages plaguing the UCF Police Department (UCFPD)’s Communications Center, he was always available to cover shifts, even canceling a weeklong planned vacation to assist with coverage. He racked up over 400 hours of overtime, with more than 50 12-hour shifts. Charles has provided critical training to several new dispatchers, often while also taking calls on night shift, and regularly checks in with his teammates both personally and professionally.

Chief Carl Metzger ’03MS (left), officer Roman Watkins (middle) and Deputy Chief Robin Griffin-Kitzerow (right). (Photo by Jordan Smith)
Crisis Intervention Officer of the Year: Roman Watkins

Mental health is a growing concern, as we have seen those in our community struggle more than ever before. Officer Roman Watkins has been involved with multiple de-escalations, with the most noteworthy one being his response to a student who was threatening to jump off of a campus parking garage. Once on scene, Officer Watkins established a rapport with the individual by listening to what was troubling him. The student agreed to a voluntary Baker Act but was worried about his family not being able to contact him. Officer Watkins went above and beyond and, after getting permission, contacted the student’s mother to tell her where he would be and how she could get ahold of him.

Chief Carl Metzger ’03MS (left), dispatcher Tiffany Ortiz (middle) and Deputy Chief Robin Griffin-Kitzerow (right). (Photo by Jordan Smith)
Dispatcher of the Year: Tiffany Ortiz

Dispatchers are an invaluable asset that not only affect their agency and its officers, but also members of the public who depend on that voice on the other end of the phone in an emergency. Since joining UCFPD in 2022, Tiffany Ortiz has made a significant impact in the two years she has been here. She is always willing to fill in due to staffing shortages and recently earned a certification to assist with training new dispatchers. Ortiz received several nominations, all of which praised her calm demeanor and ability to relay information quickly and effectively, often before officers even ask.

Chief Carl Metzger ’03MS (left), officer Jeffrey Hopkins (middle) and Deputy Chief Robin Griffin-Kitzerow (right). (Photo by Jordan Smith)
DUI Officer of the Year: Jeffrey Hopkins

It’s up to all of us to keep our roads safe, and UCFPD is committed to stopping impaired driving on campus and in the surrounding area. The DUI Officer of the Year award is given based on statistics, and this year was a tie between two officers, who both had officer Jeffrey Hopkins led the charge with five DUI arrests in 2023. While this number may not seem exceptionally large, these types of arrests are often limited due to UCFPD’s jurisdictional boundaries and participation in county-wide details. Impaired drivers can forever change the lives of hundreds of people in a fatal crash, but because of the efforts of these two officers, 10 of them never had the chance.

From left to right: Maj. Derrick Stockdreher, Chief Carl Metzger ’03MS, officer Lee Smith, Deputy Chief Robin Griffin-Kitzerow, Cmdr. Pete Osterrieder. (Photo by UCF Public Safety)
Officer of the Year: Lee Smith

It was clear from the start that when officer Lee Smith joined UCFPD, he had an immeasurable heart of service and a willingness to always try to do the right thing. He excelled in 2023 — from becoming a patrol investigator and Field Training Officer to receiving his certification as a drone operator. He found his niche by enforcing traffic laws on our campus and holding violators accountable for dangerous driving, which is critical to public safety on a campus with thousands of vehicles and pedestrians every day. In 2023, Smith completed 780 traffic stops, issued 683 traffic citations and made 28 traffic-related arrests as a result. Due to his enforcement, he effectively changed the driving patterns of our campus community to a safer and law-abiding environment.

Chief Carl Metzger ’03MS (left), Luz Garcia (middle) and Deputy Chief Robin Griffin-Kitzerow (right). (Photo by Jordan Smith)
Partner of the Year: Luz Garcia

Luz Garcia is responsible for keeping UCFPD in tip-top shape. She always has a smile on her face and is kind to everyone she meets. Often required to work holidays and over breaks, she goes out of her way to ensure everyone has what they need and isn’t afraid to alert her supervisors if she notices something wrong in the building. One nomination cited an example when she came rushing over to help clean up a spill and insisted the person leave to go pick up their child from school while she took care of the mess.

Chief Carl Metzger ’03MS (left), officer Andres Carbone (middle) and Deputy Chief Robin Griffin-Kitzerow (right). (Photo by Jordan Smith)
Rookie of the Year: Andres Carbone

Although law enforcement is not new to officer Andres Carbone, in his brief time here at UCF he has quickly become one of the most proactive officers in the agency. As a Drug Recognition Expert, he consistently volunteers his time for DUI cases and frequently assists in setting up training for his squad. He has worked closely with our detectives on cases to sharpen his investigative skills and has expressed interest in threat management training. Officer Carbone has brought experience from previous agencies and applied it to ours, contributing to the success of our department and officers.

Chief Carl Metzger ’03MS (left), Sgt. Pete Stephens (middle) and Deputy Chief Robin Griffin-Kitzerow (right). (Photo by Jordan Smith)
Sworn Supervisor of the Year: Pete Stephens

Sgt. Pete Stephens officially oversees a small team of civilian employees but also supervises countless officers working traffic and special event details. Often called the “backbone of the department” and the “hardest working guy in the building,” he is pivotal in ensuring campus events are staffed, often volunteering for details himself when there are not enough officers to fill spots and providing extensive manual labor to ensure successful and safe events. He is incredibly busy, but always willing to lend a hand or support his team. Stephens is an exceptional problem-solver — probably due to his love of puzzles and Wordle — and always willing to work with others to produce creative solutions to issues.

In addition to their regular duties and case load, this remarkable four-person team has maintained and built relationships with campus and community partners, presented and attended several conferences and meetings across the state and more. (Photo by Jordan Smith)
Team of the Year: Threat Management (Bianca Becker, Allura Bennett, Delaney Kirwin-Moore, Frank Imparato)

Keeping the UCF campus safe and secure is a big job, and one we do not take lightly at UCF Public Safety. That’s why we assess all potential threats and persons of concerns that are reported to us and the university. For the past year, this four-person team has a true passion for the work they do. They were instrumental in maintaining the level of care and service the team is expected to, while also developing it for the better. These individuals have maintained and built relationships with campus and community partners, presented at 12 different college campuses, attended the Master Trainer program, presented and attended several conferences and meetings across the state — all on top of their regular duties and case load.

Chief Carl Metzger ’03MS (left), Sgt. Alan Elliot (middle) and Deputy Chief Robin Griffin-Kitzerow (right). (Photo by Jordan Smith)
Life-saving award: Alan Elliot, Katie Marts, Dan Ryley

A student sustained life-threatening injuries after crashing headfirst into a brick wall while riding an electric scooter near the Recreation and Wellness Center. Sgt. Alan Elliot and officer Dan Ryley were able to provide aid while waiting for Orange County Fire Rescue to arrive, including clearing the patient’s airway several times and applying direct pressure to his wound. Officer Katie Marts was also on-scene to check for any additional injuries and provide support. The patient was ultimately transported as a trauma alert to the hospital in critical, unstable condition, where his family was told that he likely would not have survived without the aid provided by officers.

Chief Carl Metzger ’03MS (left), officer Anthony Mancuso (middle) and Deputy Chief Robin Griffin-Kitzerow (right). (Photo by Jordan Smith)
Life-saving award: Anthony Mancuso

When a fatigued student crashed into a light pole on campus and flipped her vehicle, officer Anthony Mancuso sprang into action. The student was uninjured in the crash, but fluid was leaking from the car with live wires nearby. After assessing the situation, Mancuso quickly began punching the windshield with only a gloved hand to rescue her and suffered significant cuts in the process. He was later transported to the hospital and received several stitches.