Mayor Chris Beutler today will present the Mayor's Award of Excellence for September to Police Sergeant Jeff Bucher from the Lincoln Police Department's (LPD) Criminal Investigations division. The award will be presented at the beginning of today's City Council meeting at 3 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 555 S. 10th St. The monthly award recognizes City employees who consistently provide exemplary service and work that demonstrates personal commitment to the City.
Bucher has worked for the City since 1990. He was nominated by Police Sergeant Kenneth Koziol in the categories of customer relations, productivity and safety for his role in solving two homicides that occurred June 29, 2013. The two victims, who did not know each other, were both beaten to death as they walked down the street. One was found injured near North 14th Street and Benton Street about 3:30 a.m., and the other was found dead about an hour later in the 3800 block of "L" Street.
The first victim later died at the hospital and originally there was speculation that his injuries were due to an accidental fall. The second victim was an obvious homicide, and viable suspects were developed early. Sergeant Bucher was assigned the lead in the second death. Koziol wrote that many LPD investigators collaborated on the initial investigation, including Sergeant Greg Sorensen and Investigator Troy Aksamit. Sergeant Bucher, however, took on most of the responsibility, decision making and coordination of the investigation.
Bucher received a break in early November, when solid information surfaced that pointed to members of the True Blue Soldiers Gang. Within a week, Richard McLaughlin and Tyler Thornburg were arrested for both homicides. Bucher continued to build airtight cases against the two men, despite complications. Many gang members are unwilling to cooperate with law enforcement, and that can be compounded by witness intimidation. Koziol wrote "Jeff overcame these obstacles by his hard work and commitment to obtain justice for the victims and consolation for the family of the victims." Koziol said Bucher's honesty and integrity and his ability to gain trust and cooperation were huge assets in solving these homicides.
Bucher worked with Deputy County Attorney Bruce Prenda on strategy. Seven months after the arrests, the two suspects pled guilty to manslaughter and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony and were given lengthy prison sentences.
Koziol wrote that during this time, Bucher continued to manage a heavy caseload of other investigations and served as SWAT Team Leader. "Sergeant Bucher makes us proud to be officers for the City of Lincoln," he wrote.
The other categories in which employees can be nominated are loss prevention and valor. Consideration also may be given to nominations that demonstrate self-initiated accomplishments or those completed outside of the nominee's job description. All City employees are eligible for the Mayor's Award of Excellence except for elected and appointed officials.
Individuals or teams can be nominated by supervisors, peers, subordinates and the general public. Nomination forms are available at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: hr) or from department heads, employee bulletin boards or the Human Resources Department, which oversees the awards program. All nominations are considered by the Mayor's Award of Excellence Committee, which includes a representative with each union and a non-union representative appointed by the Mayor. Award winners receive a $50 gift certificate, a day off with pay and a plaque. All monthly winners and nominees are eligible to receive the annual award, which comes with a $250 gift certificate, two days off with pay and a plaque.