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Detroit — Rookie Detroit police officer Joel Dobris had only seconds to act when a woman pulled out a rusty straight-razor and lunged toward his training officer.

“I didn’t have time to think; my training just kicked in and I defended my partner,” Dobris said, recalling the Dec. 6 incident in which he and Robin Hill were called to investigate a suspicious woman inside a home in the 19000 block of Santa Rosa.

Dobris, a 31-year-old father of two, jumped in front of the woman, who reportedly slashed him across the face several times, causing major injuries that required extensive reconstructive surgery.

For his snap decision, Dobris is expected to be honored along with 14 other Detroit cops Friday night at the Detroit Police Officers Association’s 30th Annual District Officers of the Year awards ceremony at the Athenaeum Hotel in Greektown.

“I knew what I was getting myself into when I became a cop,” said Dobris, who served two years as an officer in Saginaw County before coming to Detroit. “I knew something like that could happen.

“God put me in that situation and pulled me through it. I give all credit to my God. He was testing me that day, and helped me save my partner’s life.”

The suspect, Angel Birch, was charged with assault with intent to murder, assault with intent to do great bodily harm, felonious assault and multiple counts of resisting and obstructing. She has a competency hearing scheduled for May 2.

Dobris was the recipient of a Wound Award and a Medal of Valor, and he also has been named one of the Honorable Mention recipients for this year’s National Association of Police Officers’ Top Cop recognition program. He is scheduled to be honored at the White House during National Police Week next month.

“Since that happened, everyone has shown me a lot of respect,” Dobris said. “People reached out to shake my hand, and tell me they appreciate it. I could not ask anything more from my peers. Detroit has had my back 100 percent.”

Also expected to be honored Friday is officer Lemar Thompson, who put a bear hug on a killer Nov. 28 who was trying to retrieve a gun from his waistband, after allegedly beating a woman to death with a hammer, and then knocked the man off-balance after he pulled out the pistol and aimed it at him and his partner.

“Officer (Robert) Huckestein would later state that he firmly believed that Officer Thompson’s extremely quick reaction saved his life,” said a Detroit Police Officers Association program about the award recipients.

“It was later discovered that in addition to the handgun he pulled on Officer Huckestein, the suspect was also found to have a second semiautomatic weapon and additional ammunition-filled magazines in his pocket, thus making him an even greater threat than originally believed,” the program said.

The other officers to be honored for work during 2014 are Paul Sahadi, Jermaine Owens, Shawn Davidson, Michael Garrison, Gregory Jones, Steven Rata, Jonathan Williams, Derald Penn, David Tanner, Richard Schley, Francine Hasegawa, Steven Turner and Edward Hicks.

“In the wake of the city of Detroit's municipal bankruptcy, and the life-altering benefit changes our officers incurred under the state-appointed emergency manager in bankruptcy, our officers performed at the highest level of standards in the law enforcement community,” Detroit Police Officers Association President Mark Diaz said in a written statement.

ghunter@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2134

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