DPS Awards Honor Texans for Outstanding Public Safety Contributions

DPS Awards Honor Texans for Outstanding Public Safety Contributions

At a recent Public Safety Commission (PSC) meeting held at the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Headquarters in Austin, Director Steven McCraw and the Commission honored several Texans for their outstanding service and contributions to public safety.

During the meeting, Director McCraw and the Commissioners presented a series of awards recognizing exceptional achievements. Two individuals received the prestigious Top Trooper Awards, while two others were honored with the Adolph Thomas Distinguished Service Awards. Additionally, two recipients were acknowledged with the Director’s Awards for their exemplary dedication.

In a surprise presentation, Director McCraw himself was awarded a Lifesaving Award, highlighting his significant contributions to public safety. The Commission also recognized another individual with a Lifesaving Award for their courageous actions.

Director McCraw expressed gratitude to all awardees, stating, “Today, DPS says thank you to some of our personnel and members of the public for their unwavering commitment to public safety, exceptional courage, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. What they all have in common is that each of these award recipients has demonstrated a resolve in making Texas a better place to call home.”

He also acknowledged the collaborative effort that enabled DPS to transition to an all SUV-fleet, attributing the success to the dedication of many individuals, including members of the Texas Legislature who provided necessary funding.

The following people were recognized at the PSC ceremony:


In April, DPS held the 12th annual Javier Arana Jr. Top Trooper Competition at the DPS Tactical Training Facility in Florence. During the multi-day competition, Troopers were tested on driving and firearms skills, rigorous physical conditioning and endurance and job knowledge through nine events. Each year, one male and one female Trooper earn the Javier Arana Jr. Top Trooper Award, named after fallen Trooper Javier Arana Jr. who participated in the inaugural competition in 2012. 120 Troopers took part, with Trooper Trevor Topper (Archer City) being named the top male competitor and Trooper Melanie Moreno (Alice) taking home the top female competitor title. In recognition of winning this year’s competition, Trooper Topper and Trooper Moreno are each awarded the Javier Arana Jr. Top Trooper Award.


The Adolph Thomas Distinguished Service Award is named after the first black DPS Trooper, who graduated from the DPS Training Academy in 1970. Thomas worked in Highway Patrol, Narcotics, served as Commander of the Training Academy and retired as Chief of Staff Services in 1995 after a distinguished 27-year career with the department. Chief Thomas, who passed away in 2017, excelled in the areas of mentoring fellow employees, training others and civic engagement. The Adolph Thomas Distinguished Service Award was created to honor DPS employees who display excellence and distinguish themselves in those same three areas. The 2024 Adolph Thomas Distinguished Service Award was given to one non-commissioned and one commissioned person within the department.

Dominique Washington (Headquarters) began his career with DPS in 2013 and has demonstrated the department’s values daily. During his tenure at the South Austin driver license office, there was a consistently high employee turnover rate and level of customer complaints. Washington’s leadership and determination shifted the dynamic, which now has the lowest number of customer complaints in the Austin area and a significant decrease in employee turnover. Because of his exceptional work, DPS Driver License Division Chiefs selected Washington to lead a newly developed in-service supervisor training focus group designed to empower supervisors across the agency operationally and help them develop their leadership skills. In recognition of his exemplary service, assistant manager Dominique Washington is the non-commissioned award recipient of this year’s Adolph Thomas Distinguished Service Award.

Trooper Steven Prater (Headquarters) now serves as the Tyler District training coordinator in DPS’ Training Operations Division (TOD). Prior to this role, Trooper Prater mentored young Troopers and served as a field training officer for the Texas Highway Patrol. Shortly after taking on his new role, Trooper Prater exceeded his required training schedules in the district’s remote areas, which greatly assisted small agencies with Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE)-mandated training. Trooper Prater has strengthened bonds between law enforcement agencies and promotes a shared commitment to excellence and professionalism. His approach enhances interagency cooperation and ensures everyone is properly equipped to serve and protect their communities effectively. In recognition of his tremendous service, Trooper Steven Prater is the commissioned award recipient of this year’s Adolph Thomas Distinguished Service Award.


On April 8, 2024, Senior Trooper Jason Melson (Capitol) arrived on scene to assist Special Agent Garrett Ray who had discovered an unresponsive man experiencing a medical emergency near the Texas State Capitol Complex. Agent Ray noticed a white powdery substance in a bag nearby and in the subject’s nostrils—later confirmed as fentanyl. Trooper Melson immediately began a medical assessment, noting the subject had a weak, rapid pulse and labored breathing. Trooper Melson determined the man was experiencing a narcotic overdose and administered multiple doses of Narcan. The subject was placed in the recovery position and his respiration stabilized. He eventually regained consciousness and was then transported to a hospital by Travis County EMS. In recognition of his significant and professional response to a life-threatening situation resulting in the saving of a life, Senior Trooper Jason Melson is awarded the Lifesaving Award.


On Jan. 18, 2024, Trooper Ernesto De La Peña (McAllen) was on routine patrol when he approached a vehicle stopped at a traffic light in front of him. A distressed female subject exited the front, removed an infant from the back seat and began patting the baby on the back. Trooper De La Peña recognized that the infant was choking and immediately rushed toward the vehicle. The infant was stiff, had bluish skin and was making very faint cries. Trooper De La Peña took the infant, placed them face down over his forearm and began providing back blows between the infant’s shoulder blades. After several attempts, the female subject was able to remove a small plastic cap the infant had swallowed, and he began to cry louder and return to a normal color. In recognition of his significant and quick response to a life-threatening situation, Trooper Ernesto De La Peña is awarded the Lifesaving Award.


On Nov. 18, 2023, Stevi Brewster was on-scene when Trooper Jimmy Spraggins responded to a one-vehicle rollover crash involving two minors whose vehicle had collided with a tree and caught fire in Anderson County. Ms. Brewster, who reported the crash, found two young boys lying next to the vehicle with severe injuries. Putting her own safety at risk, she carried the boys across the road as the fire continued to grow. Shortly after she got the second boy across the road to safety, the vehicle became engulfed in flames. Ms. Brewster kept both boys awake and conscious until EMS arrived. The boys were care-flighted to a medical center with serious injuries. In recognition of her significant and decisive response to a life-threatening situation, Stevi Brewster is awarded the Director’s Award.


On Aug. 30, 2023, Angelica and Robert Saldaña jumped in to help Trooper Christopher McCormick as he was being assaulted by a subject during a foot chase in North Austin. Trooper McCormick was assisting the Austin Police Department with the subject who was selling and distributing large quantities of fentanyl, and also had five outstanding warrants. The subject fled on foot after a vehicle pursuit through a residential area, running through several yards. During the foot chase, a privacy fence fell on top of the subject and Trooper McCormick. As the subject began to physically assault the Trooper, the Saldañas rushed out of their home and assisted with subduing the subject. The Saldañas selflessly put themselves in harm’s way to protect a public servant, and their actions saved Trooper McCormick from further harm. In recognition of their response in assisting a law enforcement officer, Angelica and Robert Saldaña are awarded the Director’s Award.


Throughout his career, Colonel Steven C. McCraw has worked to ensure the department maintains the highest standards. In 2018, Colonel McCraw directed the Texas Highway Patrol State Crash Reconstruction Team to analyze fleet-related crashes involving members of the department, along with the survivability of members operating sedans compared to SUVs. After completing the analysis, it was found that DPS personnel were nearly eight times more likely to survive a head-on crash in an SUV; the risk of death was 24 times greater for DPS personnel driving sedans when involved in collisions with SUVs; and the rate of overall serious injury or death of individuals inside parked SUVs during a collision was approximately 17% lower than those involving sedans. After receiving this data, Colonel McCraw immediately took action to protect DPS personnel by transitioning the department to an all-SUV fleet. In recognition of his leadership, forward-thinking and devotion to the safety of the men and women who serve this department, Colonel Steven C. McCraw is awarded the Lifesaving Award.