Of The Year Award Recipients, 2019

Of the Year Award Photos:


Latonia Barnes, Civilian Employee of the Year

Latonia Barnes embraces her role as Administrative Assistant and consistently outperforms the duties and responsibilities for her position. One particular area where Latonia has excelled this past year is in her facilitating the yearly departmental promotional process for the commissioned officer staff. Not only does Latonia have to carefully orchestrate coordination amongst a variety of personnel within the department, but she also ensures close coordination within UT Police and Morris and McDaniel. Latonia must ensure that all planning, notifications and coordination with and from ODOP are precise and timely. This process includes but is not limited to preparing the Professional History Portfolio (PHP) of each candidate, providing feedback to each candidate from the assessment center, as well as providing accurate and timely status updates to the department executive team.

Catrina Smith, Public Safety Officer of the Year

Public Safety Supervisor Catrina Smith is an integral part of the UT Police annual Children's Gift Drive, giving much of her time every year to the promotion and coordination of the event. PSS Smith is hands-on with the collection, organization, wrapping and the final distribution of all the gifts to the deserving children. For the last several years, PSS Smith has been the driving force behind the Public Safety Officer Holiday Potluck, which is an event that she sets up at ACB. PSS Smith coordinates the event for all PSOs where she takes donations and gets others to bring in their own food dishes. Along with all the meticulous attention given to this event, PSS Smith also cooks a lot of the food herself. In the years where PSS Smith has held this annual potluck, she has never turned anyone away regardless of their contribution. This event is a morale booster and an event that all members in the department look forward to as it is attended by commissioned officers and PSOs alike, as well as the administrative staff and leadership.

LaDonna Little, Telecommunicator of the Year

As a Public Safety Officer, Lead Telecommunications Officer LaDonna Little patrolled the campus, interacting with patients, visitors and staff, providing a helping hand and friendly face. This experience as a Public Safety Officer prepared her for the role of Police Telecommunicator. As a Police Telecommunicator, Lead TCO Little answered calls and directed responses to meet the needs of the same patients, visitors, and staff she encountered as a PSO. Her knowledge of the field and working on both sides of the radio led to her promotion to Lead Police Telecommunicator in 2003. Since her promotion to Lead, her care and concern have not been exclusive to the patients and visitors of the institution. Lead TCO Little demonstrates these same qualities in interacting with employees and coworkers within the Risk Operations Center, the Police Department and the institution. She takes a positive approach to all situations and communications with others. Lead TCO Little’s optimistic nature drives her team in difficult times. Her efforts are genuine because service and working with others is her passion. Showing caring, leadership, professionalism, service, integrity and innovation are not only elements of the institutional or departmental core values; these are values that she strives to abide by both at work and at home as a natural part of who she is.

Senior Inspector Charles Dunn, Investigator of the Year

Since joining UT Police at Houston nearly four years ago, Sr. Inspector Charlie Dunn has served as an advisor, instructor, investigator and mentor to members of the department. His work and insight into complex criminal and employment law matters have won praise from leadership at UTHealth, MD Anderson and UT System. Although Sr. Inspector Dunn has made significant contributions to our mission from his first day of employment, his work over the last year has been nothing short of exceptional. In the past year, UT Police was asked to assist Compliance with a number of highly complex investigations involving possible criminal activity. The cases involved matters of national security, theft of intellectual property, abuse of office, and the possible sexual exploitation of employees. What makes his accomplishments more remarkable is that he completed this work while also overseeing our administrative/public integrity cases, Clery compliance, Title IX case review, open records requests, MOU development, employee appeals/grievances and other duties as assigned by the Chief of Police. He does all these things with a smile and good-natured sense of humor.

Carl Willis, Police Officer of the Year

Police Officer Carl Willis has built a reputation for doing the right thing in the right way. He is the right-hand man to the Field Training sergeant. Officer Willis coordinates the schedule, teaches the report writing class and participates in scenario-based assessments and training. He is a wealth of knowledge mentoring rookie officers on the ins and outs of uniformed patrol operations. Officer Willis serves as the go-to officer for department tours serving as a subject matter expert and sharing police perspectives with institutional leaders. He was involved in two volatile incidents at the Harris County Psychiatric Center emerging from both situations professionally while displaying empathy, courage, and compassion. His commitment to the department’s core values earned him recognition at this year’s award ceremony.

Giovanni Lark, Rookie of the Year

Most every police officer can clearly remember their rookie years. Giovanni Lark has shown the ability to work well with others in the department and within the community. His professionalism is commendable punctual, prepared and able to communicate effectively with people from all backgrounds. He is reliable and needs minimal assistance with assignments. His adaptability allows him to work well on a team with or without minimal supervision. This year’s rookie was nominated for performing their duties in an “exemplary fashion.” Officer Lark has shown a keen ability to take appropriate actions when unusual situations arise and shows confidence when out in the field interacting with our community.