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Officer, Firefighter of Year Honored by Aloha Exchange Club

April 7, 2021, 11:02 AM HST
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Josh Willing HPD
HPD Officer Willing and James Sanborn of Aloha Exchange Club. . PC: HPD

Two members of the Hawai´i Police Department and Hawai´i Fire Department have received honors for their outstanding contributions to the Big Island community over the previous year.

The Aloha Exchange Club of East Hawaiʻi recognized South Hilo Patrol Officer Joshua Willing as 2020 Officer of the Year and Hawai‘i Fire Department Battalion Chief Keoki Brown as Firefighter of the Year in recent ceremonies.

Typically, the Club holds a large formal luncheon honoring both awardees at the same time but due to COVID-19 safety protocols, separate ceremonies were held in Hilo. Brown was recognized at a ceremony at Haihai fire station on March 22 and Willing was honored at a March 29 ceremony at the Hawai‘i Police Department training room.  

Video courtesy of Denise Laitinen, HPD.

Officer Willing, who has been with the department for five years, was honored for his efforts during the rescue of two minors who became stranded on a rock outcropping in Wailuku River above Boiling Pots during a flash flood last April.

Keoki Brown HFD
Curtis Chong of Aloha Exchange Club and Battalion Chief Keoki Brown. PC: HPD

While trying to prevent one parent from jumping into the river after their child, Officer Willing was himself swept away and submerged under water. He and the parent were able to get back to safety and both children were rescued in good condition. For his heroism and courage, Officer Willing was previously named the Club’s Officer of the Month for April 2020.

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During the award presentation, Police Chief Paul K. Ferreira thanked the Aloha Exchange Club for honoring Officer Willing, noting that Willing did an outstanding job and risked his life to look out for the safety of another person and that person’s children. Brown, who has been with HFD for 21 years and was promoted to battalion chief in February 2021, was recognized for his work launching and spearheading the fire department’s COVID-19 task force.

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He spent countless hours leading the task force, developing internal procedures, and implementing contact tracing protocols within the department. His work allowed the department to minimize the spread of the virus among personnel and their families, enabling them to focus on assisting the community.

At the fire department presentation, Acting Fire Chief Robert Perreira thanked Brown for his work, noting that his efforts “show that our department is made up of members that truly care about our community and our internal community, too.”

Video courtesy of Denise Laitinen

Every month the East Hawai´i Aloha Exchange Club honors a police officer in East Hawai´i as their officer of the month. Officers are nominated by their supervisors from the various police districts and a monthly winner is selected. All officers selected for Officer of the Month are eligible to be selected as the East Hawai´i Aloha Exchange Club’s Officer of the Year. The Firefighter of the Year nominee is submitted to the Club by the fire chief.

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