Public Relations Media Manager Phyllis Banks-Whitley chokes up at the Albany Police Department Christmas awards luncheon Friday as Chief John Proctor names her the recipient of the Commander in Chief Award for her dedication to the department and unending hours of service as media relations director and steadfast supporter of staff and sworn personnel.
ALBANY — The messages came across to anyone paying attention at the annual Albany Police Department Christmas luncheon Friday.
The paper bags graced with pictures of the slain children and teachers in Newtown, Conn., gently acknowledged that victims, no matter where they fall, hold a place in the hearts and minds of those who answer the call to public service.
Honors for personnel that followed meant their contributions added to their collective calling: to protect and serve.
“I remember crying that evening at the senseless actions that take place in America,” APD Chief John Proctor said during remarks at the banquet.
The crisp, white bags would be signed and messages written on them to be mailed to the Sandy Hook Elementary School to show an open heart.
Those hearts also beat during plaque presentations to personnel who have learned to count on each other, Proctor said. And we can count on them every day, he added.
“Many will not be home at Christmas with the people that matter most to them, their families,” Proctor said. “In that, we are their family and appreciate their sacrifices.”
Proctor acknowledged those who answered the dangerous call that sometimes comes with the badge, such as Officer Willie Hall. A bullet hit Hall’s arm, was deflected by his armored vest and smashed his cellphone in early June.
As a leader, Proctor quickly recognized that while they might not be in harm’s way, personnel who support the actions and morale of the officers he commands deserve to be honored also.
It was with a sense of pride that Proctor announced his choice for the Commander in Chief Award, Public Relations-Media Manager Phyllis Banks-Whitley.
Banks-Whitley trembled and cried as she accepted the honor. The crowd laughed with glee and heavily applauded her selection.
Proctor could not find enough to say about Banks-Whitley’s hard work, response to the call to duty and the promotion of the department.
“We work 75 to 80 hours a week. We keep going,” Proctor said. “I demand a lot, and I expect no less.”
Besides her internal organization communication duties, Banks-Whitley keeps the communication flowing to the media without jeopardizing an investigation’s integrity. No matter the time of day, or night, or the day of the week, she is there to make sure residents know how the police stand up to crime.
“It is truly an honor to receive the highest award,” Banks-Whitley said. “I do not do it for recognition, only to fully serve the department and citizens of Albany.”