Chicago cops honored for heroism at 63rd annual 'Recognition Ceremony'

It was a day of honor for Chicago police officers who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.

The 63rd annual Chicago Police Recognition Ceremony on Wednesday presented awards to dozens of officers, including some who gave their lives in the line of duty.

At a time when policing is under pressure and cops are under fire, this was a celebration of those who put their lives at risk to keep Chicago safe.

"The negativity that you hear is on a lower level than you believe. It's just loud," said Chicago Police Superintendent Larry Snelling. "And I'm telling you, I'm talking to people all across this city, and they love the Chicago Police Department. They love what you stand for."

Scores of officers were honored for their actions, many of whom ran toward gunfire to rescue a victim. Others gave lifesaving care to people targeted by gun violence.

Three 10th District officers were recognized for taking guns from a street gang while under fire.

"I would say it's nice to be recognized for the award," said Officer Andre Balseca, one of the recipients. "But you don't do it for this. You do it for your brothers and sisters. The award to me would mean nothing but as long as they're here."

There was a special ceremony for two officers who died on duty in 2023, Andres Vasquez Lasso and Areanah Preston, their families accepting their posthumous awards.

"I'm always thinking about her last moments," said Dionne Mhoon, Preston's mother. "But I'm also always thinking about what more she had to give to the world. What we're missing out."

The annual salute to the best of the Chicago Police Department has been held since the early 1960s. And it comes at a time when there's never been more scrutiny on Chicago police.

There was polite applause for Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, who has had a sometimes fractious relationship with his police force. But on Wednesday, he came with praise.

"These stories that you all have that we are recognizing today, that are being honored, it's a reminder of the daily sacrifices that are made by our police officers," said Johnson. "These stories remind us that Chicago police officers are truly everyday heroes."