MUSCATINE, Iowa–Locally, Muscatine police officers Whitni Pena and Jolisa Colman have received recognition for their lifesaving efforts in 2020. Now, the Iowa Association of Women Police Officers has honored both of them for their contributions to the profession with 2019-2020 Officer of the Year and 2021 Honorary Officer of the Year awards.
For two days each spring, the Iowa Association of Women Police Officers holds their annual conference, which provides professional learning opportunities as well as time for officers from across the state to network. It also recognizes officers for outstanding work with the Officer of the Year awards, which organizers presented in a ceremony on March 8 this year.
On Feb. 29, 2020, Pena attended a swimming birthday party with one of her children. When another parent pulled a young boy, Kaysen Simonsen, out of the pool unresponsive, Pena provided CPR to him, which ended up reviving him just a paramedics arrived. For these efforts, Pena received the Muscatine Police Lifesaving Award and the 2019-2020 Officer of the Year Award. Though Pena received her award a year late due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both her family and Muscatine Police Chief made the trip to Sioux City to celebrate her accomplishment. Reflecting back on the experience, Pena shared, “I am honored to receive the award; it’s always exciting to receive any award, but when it comes from other peers within your profession it makes it that much more meaningful.”
She also found the surprise visit from her family heartwarming. “I had known that I was going to get an award at the 2020 conference but with it being cancelled I figured I was just going to get a plaque,” Pena said. “When I saw my family come through the door and my daughters yell, “mom,” I had instant waterworks.”
Only a week before Pena rescued Kaysen from the pool, Colman had done some lifesaving work of her own. On Feb. 22, 2020, Colman responded to a call of a woman threatening to jump from the Norbert F. Beckey Bridge. When the woman lurched forward, Colman grabbed her and managed to pull her back from her perilous position. Using her crisis negotiation training, Colman convinced the woman to leave the bridge and accept help. In addition to receiving the third ever Muscatine Police Department Medal of Valor, as well as the Honorary 2021 Officer of the Year Award.
Unaware that she would receive the award or that her chief would attend the ceremony, Colman felt equal parts startled and awed. “I was very surprised with the award,” she stated. “It meant a lot to both of us to have our chief travel the five plus hours to show his support for us and women in law enforcement.”