A group of Missoula police officers were singled out for special commendations Thursday evening in the city council chambers, including officer Deni Poling, who was run over by a fleeing suspect and gravely injured on January 7, 2013.

Police Chief Mark Muir introduced the program by praising the heroism of the 99 officers in his command.

"We're reminded of the fact that when things are bad, instead of running from danger, we expect our police officers to run into danger," Muir began. "I want you to know that I know of no finer group of men and women committed to serving our community in the way that they do."

After presenting certificates of commendation to officers Mitch Lang and Matt Stonesifer for breaking a difficult and complicated stolen car ring, a lifesaving medal to officer Ben Freudenberg, Muir singled out three other officers.

"Tonight," Muir said, "we will be issuing a police medal to Lieutenant Richard Stepper, a meritorious service award to officer Michael Kamerer and a purple star to officer Deni Poling."

photo by Peter Christian

When it came time to present Poling with her medal, both Muir and Poling were blinking back tears.

"During the course of her duties as a police officer, officer Poling was injured in a capacity that nearly cost her her life," Muir said. "She suffered multiple fractures to her hip, femur and ankle, requiring two extensive reconstructive surgeries and a considerable amount of pain."

"For her commitment to the Missoula Police Department and our community, for her sacrifices, for her courage, for putting her life on the line to keep our citizenry safe, we are truly honored to present officer Danielle Poling the Missoula Police Department's purple star," Muir said.

The medal recipients will also be recognized at the annual Law Enforcement Memorial ceremony on May 14 at Rose Memorial Park.