Recipients of the Exchange Club of Albany’s 2011 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award are, from left, Lee County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Keith Houston; Albany Police Department Cpl. Arthur Tyler; Dougherty County Police Department Cpl. Robert Richard; Georgia Department of Natural Resources Ranger First Class Bob Holley; Georgia State Patrol Senior Trooper Darryl Benton; Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office Detention Officer James Collier.
ALBANY -- All too often people grumble about the speeding ticket, the crime rate and police response times.
Once a year for probably more than 25 years the Exchange Club of Albany says what many feel deep in their heart, but don't take time to say. The club honored six law enforcement officers as representatives of the men and women who go out day after day risking their lives to protect and serve.
"Thank you for all you do," said Ray Hinman, club president. "We really appreciate you being there for us."
Preceding the awards, the police officers, club members and guests remembered the sacrifice of 36-year-old Albany Police Department Officer Terry Lewis-Fleming, who died in a crash while pursuing armed robbers Oct. 28. A candle was lit for her and a moment of silence observed.
In the order they were called to the podium to receive a plaque and a $75 honorarium check, the recipients of the club's 2011 Law Enforcement of the Year awards were:
- Lee County Sheriff's Office Capt. Keith Houston. Part of Houston's citation for the award told of his part in probably saving the life of an unconscious driver parked on the shoulder of U.S. 19. Acting quickly with Capt. Jeffery Kirt, Houston found the man had no pulse. Houston performed CPR on the man until EMS personnel arrived.
Emergency medical personnel arrived and the unconscious man had a pulse. Houston and Kirt were awarded the Life Saving Award Medal from the Lee County Sheriff's Office.
- Georgia State Patrol Senior Trooper Darryl Benton. Besides having a strong motor-vehicle violation ticketing record including taking 28 drunken drivers off the road, Benton is an example showing those in law enforcement never really go off duty. While Benton's family rode in his car with him, Benton saw an elderly robbery victim fall to the ground.
Benton checked on the victim, called Albany police and ran after the thieves, recovering the money the victim had lost to the thieves.
- Georgia Department of natural Resources Ranger 1st Class Bob Holley. With his partner K-9 "Creek" Holley is among the top three rangers in the region for the number of violator contacts.
Holley serves as a DNR Academy instructor for firearms, and general law enforcement. He is involved with tactical boat operations and hunter education. He is also a member of the state Counter Terrorism Task Force.
- Dougherty County Sheriff's Office Detention Officer James Collier. Collier is among the officers at the Dougherty County Jail that have to deal with the worst in the area's population. He has shown by his work ethic, integrity and dedication that he can be counted on is any situation.
In a mere two years he has shown the grit and responsibility to supervise and train new employees. He was selected by his fellow employees to be Employee of the Year.
- Dougherty County Police Department Cpl. Robert Richard. Richard is a H.E.A.T. Unit officer. In the Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic Richard shines in writing 2,075 citations and 1, 022 written earnings.
As a result of Richard's aggressive traffic enforcement he was able to make 95 arrests of drivers or passengers wanted on outstanding warrants.
- Albany Police Department Cpl. Arthur Tyler. Tyler has been with the Albany police since 1999. Since 2009, his investigations have resulted in the arrests of more than 30 gang members. Tyler's court testimony skills have helped convict a record number of gang members on trial for murder in 2011.
During the crash and death of his friend and fellow officer Lewis-Fleming, Tyler took the assignment of lead in the armed-robbery case that involved three crime scenes. He has been the lead investigator in seven homicides and four of them involved the arrest of multiple gang members.
The citations for the officers also included their community involvement through youth mentoring and their church affiliations.
Exchingite Bob Pollock said as he went to shake each officer's hand at the end of the awards, "I want to thank them for what they do. They never get enough thanks for what they do."