A rogue cove here and there notwithstanding, Dade County is a law-abiding community that loves its cops, and it sets aside a day each year to show them just how much. Law Enforcement Appreciation Day in Dade seems to get bigger every year, and on Tuesday, the 10th annual celebration, the county courthouse was a sea of blue uniforms. The Trenton-Dade Optimists hosted the do in cooperation with the Georgia Fraternal Order of Police,and officials, schoolchildren and politicians packed the courtroom to shower the officers with plaques, roses and chocolate cake.
Optimist Vice Pres. Connie Webb emceed. Music was provided by the Dade County High School Chorus and Band Ensemble. The chorus sang patriotic songs including a silvery version of the National Anthem that made it seem like one of those easy tunes to toss off in the shower. On the other side of the courtroom, Chris Chance's band performed with its usual professionalism and panache.
Music is a big part of Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. Besides the high school performers, there was even a bagpiper furnished by the Georgia State Patrol Honor Guard.
Between the bagpipe music and the girls' winsome sopranos, many an eye grew misty and a nose here and there was blown. It was a moving ceremony.
Carlton Stallings, president of the Georgia Fraternal Order of the Police, read the names of the 10 Georgia officers who had died in the line of duty in 2015. He reminded the audience how dangerous police work is, not just the crime-fighting part but the standing-in-the-road-at-accidents part. He said of the 128 officers killed nationwide in 2015, 39 had died from gunfire as compared to 47 from vehicle-related causes.
District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin also spoke. He said about one cop is killed every 53 hours in America.
Dade County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley (left) and Trenton Mayor Alex Case presented a joint proclamation declaring this Law Enforcement Appreciation Week. Also on hand were Sheriff Ray Cross and Captain Roger Castleberry, top cops of the county and city, respectively, as well as Trenton Police Commissioner Sandra Gray.
Many school officials were at the ceremony including new Dade Superintendent of schools Dr. Jan Harris. Dade's representatives in Atlanta were, too. Sen. Jeff Mullis and Rep. John Deffenbaugh both spoke briefly to thank officers for their service. Sen. Mullis said of the four counties he represents, only Dade honors its finest this way.
Dade Middle School students laid roses on a shrine to commemorate fallen officers and handed them in person to the families of two slain officers who attended the ceremony. Those officers were Darryl Wallace and Toure' Heywood. A contingent of Dade Elementary students had made posters to thank the police for protecting little children.
Finally, top officers of the year were named from each local law enforcement agency. They were all honored by the audience and their commanding officers, but one was singled out as Officer of the Year. That was Cpl. Shawn Elmore (third from the left) of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Division.
The other honored officers pictured here are, from the left, Special Agent Adam Jones of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation; Trooper Jason Buckner of the Georgia State Patrol; Elmore; Sgt. Christopher Ware of Motor Carriers Compliance Division; Officer Eric Hartline of the Trenton Police Department; and Officer Mark Garner of the Dade County Sheriff's Department, represented here by his wife, Lee Ann.
The bagpiper played once more, the top officers posed patiently with their bosses, their families and Sen. Mullis, and then it was time to adjourn to the lobby for a gala luncheon laid on by the Optimists and presided over by smiling ex-Court Clerk Sarah Moore.
The next Law Enforcement Appreciation Day is next May, but meanwhile Dade's officials remind all to honor their friendly neighborhood cop, who as D.A. Buzz Franklin put it, is expected to have the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job and to act as diplomat, grief counselor and mental health professional as well as the regular gig of policing. "They witness a lot of things that you and I don't have to," he said.