Authorities found the badly decomposing body of Nubia in the back of the truck.
Her brother, Victor , was passed out in a passenger seat covered in severe chemical burns.
Investigators later discovered an extensive history of abuse by their adoptive parents , Jorge and Carmen Barahona.
The first responders honored Thursday afternoon were credited with saving Victor and driving change in state child welfare policy.
"I try not to reflect on that case ," David Lefont, a sergeant with the West Palm Beach Police Department, told NewsChannel 5 in an exclusive interview. "It's hard to get an award for a case that's so gruesome and horrific. But, there's a lot more people involved in that case than just the folks who were up on the stage that were accepting the award."
Lefont said the department learned lessons from the case.
"Hopefully, we'll never have that happen again ," he said. "But, if we did, we would know where to start and where to end."
The Palm Beach Chapter of ASIS International presented the 5th Annual Law Enforcement Officers awards.
More than four hundred members of law enforcement from police and sheriff's offices in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties attended the ceremony.
Jorge and Carmen Barahona are jailed awaiting trial on murder charges.