Lia Vargas and Teresa Kachirisky don't carry guns or make arrests. But when it counts, they can help save lives as surely as police officers.
The two civilian 911 dispatchers were honored Wednesday along with 47 sworn Los Angeles police colleagues who saved lives or risked their own to serve the city.
"We're never, ever included in anything, and it's just an honor that they recognized us," Kachirisky said afterward, holding her Police Star in its blue case as family and colleagues had their photos taken with her outside.
The 49 people honored in a ceremony at LAPD headquarters downtown went "above and beyond," Chief Charlie Beck said.
"A couple gun battles, saving a lifeless baby, rescuing an ICE agent," Beck said after the ceremony, summarizing a few of the 10 incidents.
Kachirisky and Vargas were near the end of their shift Jan. 2, 2011, when the call came in for a home invasion robbery in southeast Los Angeles.
The caller was a man hiding behind a big-screen TV, who said the robbers didn't know he was there.
But he was only a visitor in the home, and he didn't know exactly where he was.
He was calling from a disposable cell phone that couldn't be tracked to an exact location, so Kachirisky called the phone company and tracked it to the nearby cell tower.
Officers spent 15 minutes looking for the right house.
The man called 911 only once, but Kachirisky called him back about 10 times, seeking information on anything he could see. A car, Christmas lights - anything could have helped.
Meanwhile, Vargas took the call when the man's girlfriend called and was able to relay information to officers on where the house was.
As officers went into the house, one robber ran out, turned toward officers and refused an order to drop a gun, police said. Police shot and killed him.
A second robber was found hiding in an attic and arrested. Three victims, at least one of whom had been bound and gagged, were rescued unhurt.
The officers put themselves in harm's way. But if not for trained dispatchers, they would never have gotten there at all.
"Because of the nature of being a police dispatcher, we are often heard and never seen - and not recognized often enough," said Mikaal Waters, a nine-year veteran dispatcher who also emceed Thursday's ceremony.
Eleven officers were honored along with the dispatchers for that incident.
And one of them, Officer Roland Cruz, got a second Police Star Wednesday for a 2006 incident in which he and another officer forced their way into a home, where they arrested a man armed with a knife who'd already killed two people and planned to stab children.
Explaining why Wednesday's ceremony honored actions from 2006 and 2009, Beck said awards can be delayed while cases are under investigation or the subject of litigation.
Several officers were recognized for saving lives, including two who resuscitated an unconscious infant who turned out to have suffered a seizure in the Newton area.
Four officers helped rescue a suicidal man who planned to jump from an overpass onto a freeway.
Three Training Division officers rescued a woman from a burning car. She'd had a seizure and might have suffocated had the officers not happened by.
Eight Juvenile Division officers were given the Police Medal, a higher honor than the Police Star, for helping rescue a federal agent who'd been shot by a colleague at a federal building in Long Beach.
The agent who fired was shot and killed by a third Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent. But as the LAPD officers stationed at the building made their way toward what they believed was an "active shooter," they didn't know that.
If he hadn't gotten immediate medical attention from the officers, the wounded agent might not have survived, Waters said.
Two others given the Life Saving Medal, Officers Anthony Frias and Seree Rattanapichetkul, gave new meaning to "above and beyond."
They not only entered a burning home in the Rampart area and rescued a disoriented woman, but they went back in to make sure no one else was trapped. Then they evacuated nearby homes.
Beck, whose job often involves dealing with officer discipline and controversies, said he appreciates the chance in the twice-yearly ceremonies to honor those who do a difficult job so well.
"It's really good to recognize what is the core of what we do," he said.