Today was Dade County's 12th annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, hosted by the Trenton Dade Optimist Club in cooperation with the Georgia Fraternal Order of Police. Above are the law officers nominated for Officer of the Year from multiple law enforcement agencies in the area. They are, from left, Officer Randall Gossage of the Motor Carriers Compliance Division; Detective Barry Irwin of the Dade County Sheriff's Department; Officer Chip Geddie of the Trenton Police Department; Special Agent Audey Murphy of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation; Sgt. Mike Barr of Motor Carriers Compliance; and Trooper Joe Geddie of the Georgia State Patrol.
The feats of all the officers were listed and lauded, but Trooper Joe Geddie's list took the longest for Georgia Sen. Jeff Mullis to read, so it was no surprise when the senator gave Geddie the top award. Geddie was honored earlier for Trooper of the Year--he can now add a second plaque to his shelf (and another feather to his cap!). Also pictured are emcees Connie Webb of the Dade Optimists and Carlton Stallings, a former trooper and president of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Among Geddie's exploits read by Mullis was his arrest last December of a Trenton couple for pipe bombs he found during a routine traffic stop, cited as the largest bust for explosives in northwest Georgia history. Of the two suspects Geddie arrested for 13 pipe bombs, Robert Christopher York (left) negotiated a guilty plea and Teshena Michelle Bates was cleared of all but traffic charges in her Dade Superior Court trial two weeks ago--leaving open the question of what the bombs were intended for and how York learned to make them.
Besides honoring living police officers, the annual ceremony is also a memorial service for cops who died in the line of duty. This year Carlton Stallings had added two more to the roster of names called through his own historical research. He had always heard stories of two Dade County officers who had died in the course of their duties, said Stallings, but had never been able to separate truth from "they say" before he took it on himself to begin walking through cemeteries and sifting through the sands of time.
Stallings recalled his triumph at finding old tapes containing pertinent historical records before being stymied at discovering: "They don't make machines that read the tapes anymore." Finally he was saved by serendipity--he chanced across one of the fallen officers' grandson--and by Rex Blevins, Dade activist, aficionado of local history and packrat, who still had a 1955 newspaper article lying around.
Thus Stallings was able to add to the official list of fallen Georgia officers: Dade Sheriff Felix Cullman Graham, whose watch ended Nov. 10, 1955, when, en route to pick up a prisoner, he skidded off the road in the rain and later died of injuries from the wreck; and Trenton Chief of Police Hershel Hutchings, who met his death while on duty on Feb. 18, 1968, when he was struck by an oncoming car. Some of Graham's family, pictured above, were honored at the ceremony.
The other fallen Georgia officers were Sgt. Gregory Michael Meagher, Richmond County Sheriff's Office, who died Feb. 5, 2017; Deputy Michael "Chris" Butler, Lowndes County SO, Feb. 25, 2017; Sgt. Curtis Billue, Ga. Dept. of Corrections, June 13, 2017; Sgt. Christopher Monica, Ga. Dept. of Corrections, June 13, 2017; Detective Kristen Hearne, Polk County PD, Sept. 29, 2017; and Deputy James Martin Wallace, Richmond County SO, Nov. 2, 2017.
Music at the ceremony was provided by the Dade County High School choir, directed by Gabriella Haston. Band leaders Chris and Heather Chance as well as Dade's natural music resource Dottie Abercrombie also assisted, and as always Georgia State Patrol bagpiper Dan Bray had a starring role. It is safe to say that between the choir and the piping, attendees fulfilled their RDA of Amazing Grace for some time to come.
Dade Middle and Elementary School students also participated in the ceremony. Emcee Connie Webb stressed that an important part of Law Enforcement Appreciation was to instill respect for the law in the county's young people.
The annual ceremony was followed by a reception attended by most Dade County and Trenton city officials as well as by the legal community and candidates in the upcoming May 22 election. Refreshments were dished out by the
Optimists and by Dade 4-H educators.
Among the members of Dade's Finest to attend were Sheriff Ray Cross, left, pictured here with County Clerk Don Townsend, and Trenton's pulchritudinous police pontiff, Chief Christy Smith (below).
And among top Trenton Dade Optimists present, let us not fail to mention another favorite daughter o' Dade, Sarah Moore. Ms. Moore, who served not only for decades as Dade's Superior Court Clerk but later as District 4 county commissioner, was accompanied at the ceremony by another flavor of law enforcement officer, Sam Moore, "my son, the FBI agent." Below, the Moores pose by a picture of Dade's veritable patron saint, Red Townsend.
The Planet cannot leave Law Enforcement Appreciation Day behind for another year without mentioning one final cop, of especial importance to the Local Press:
There are plenty of nice people in the local constabulary--thanks to Mary Ann Bradford for her weekly arrest reports and Carolyn Bradford Lane for all her help, too--but Sgt. Chad Payne, appointed this year as information officer for the Dade County Sheriff's Office, has taken the 2017-18 prize for The Dade Planet's Favorite Cop.
"Sgt. Chad" reports faithfully every week on
arrests around the county, is always on duty--even when he's not--to gather and pass on information during a crisis, and can always manage to dig up details or mugshots in a pinch. His unfailing courtesy and sunny disposition just make The Planet's life happier. Thanks, Sgt. Chad!
And thanks to all Dade and Trenton law officers from The Dade Planet for another year! Be safe.