A fallen Delaware officer was honored today for his dedication, bravery and sacrifice of his life to serve and protect others.
The family of the late Lieutenant Joseph Szczerba was presented with the Congressional Badge of Bravery medal at the Paul Sweeney Public Safety Building in New Castle.
Szczerba, an 18-year veteran of the New Castle County Police Department, was fatally stabbed on September 16, 2011 after chasing down a suspect.
Szczerba, then a sergeant, was known in the department as a top-notch officer with a kind and genuine personality.
“Joe was a hero every single day of his life. He was one of the most dignified and civilized men I’ve ever met,” said Chief Elmer Setting of the New Castle County Police Department. “He was decent for everyone for no reason and you couldn’t find a bad thing to say about him, ever. He was a great cop, there’s a lot of great cops, it goes beyond that, he was a great man,” continued Setting. “So, I say Joe was a hero every single day. I believe that in my heart and in my soul and I’m grateful that we’re recognized him today and I’m thankful to the folks that put him up for this award and I don’t think there’s a better, more fitting person to receive that award, but he deserved it no matter what.”
The Congressional Badge of Bravery Act was passed in 2008 as a way to honor a select few officers in the country who displayed exceptional acts of courage in the line of duty.
“Joe Szczerba was an extraordinarily brave man,” said U.S. Senator Tom Carper, who presented the award to the Szczerba family. In that altercation, he could have pulled a pistol out and taken that guys life, that would have been the easy thing to do. I think that would have been a brave thing to do, but he didn’t do that. He obviously tried to spare this fella’s life and in the end it cost him his own life.”
Although Szczerba was severely injured in the altercation he managed to detain the suspect until help arrived.
Charlie Oberly, U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware, presented Szczerba’s wife, Kathy, with an honorable plaque from Attorney General Eric Holder’s office and encouraged the family to use the Badge of Bravery to share the late officer’s legacy with others.
“I hope the Szczerba family has the opportunity to take this metal to their schools to share the opportunities they have to let them know who Joe Szczerba was,” said Oberly.
Kathy Szczerba expressed the family’s gratitude for recognizing her husband’s “steadfast commitment to serve and protect, no matter what that might entail.”
“The Department of Justice honors a select few members of the law enforcement community each year for their exceptional acts of bravery while in the line of duty,” said Kathy. “The Szczerba family would like to convey our genuine gratitude to the Department of Justice for choosing Joe as the recipient of the award. He was indeed, a worthy candidate. Not just in the job he held and the sacrifice he paid, but in his commitment to excellence in everything he did.”
Joseph Szczerba was nominated for the honor by Major Robert Becker and former Colonel Mike McGowan of the New Castle County Police Department.
Szczerba was posthumously promoted to the rank of lieutenant and awarded the police department’s Medal of Honor. The New Castle County Police Academy was also renamed after Szczerba last year and a 5K run/walk fundraiser is held annually by Salesianum High School in his honor.
Attorney General Beau Biden said his office will be prosecuting this case and David Salasky, the man accused of fatally stabbing Szczerba, later this year.