By Valerie Baldowski
County officials recently commended several Henry County law enforcement officers for outstanding service.
During a Henry County Board of Commissioners meeting, Commission Chairman Elizabeth "B.J." Mathis presented a proclamation to the Henry County Police Department, recognizing several recent awards its officers have received.
"My hat is off to these guys," Mathis said. "They do an outstanding job."
On hand to receive the proclamation, and to address the board, was Interim Police Chief Keith Nichols.
"They do a great job, and I'm very proud of them," Nichols told commissioners. "They are very dedicated, and they believe in what they do. Sometimes they don't get recognized enough."
Nichols said officers assigned to monitor traffic and watch for speeders are doing a good job balancing warnings with writing tickets.
"About half the citations are warnings," Nichols said. "With the economy being what it is, we know people are hurting."
Sgt. James Dixon, a member of the police department's Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic (HEAT) unit, said officers have a broader agenda than merely handing out tickets.
"The reason we're out there is to protect the public," said Dixon, who has been with the Henry County Police Department for more than seven years. "A lot of times you can get hung up in the numbers game."
Several officers were recent recipients of awards during the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) banquet held March 25, including Henry County Police Officer J.R. Harper, who was named Statewide Officer of the Year. Officer John Mathis, IV, was awarded the Gold Pin. Officers Joe Holisky, Brian Warr, Casandra Baxter, Dan Blythe, and Marcus Stroud were awarded the Silver Pin. Dixon and officers Brian Goodman, Eddie Honea, Kelly Horne, and Blake Mills received the Bronze Pin.
The awards make a positive statement about how seriously the officers in the HEAT unit take their responsibility, said Lt. Mark Amerman.
"I just think it shows the county's and the department's commitment to trying to keep our roadways safe," said Amerman.
The HEAT program is partially funded by a state grant, he said. For 2010, the program received 40 percent of the money it needs from the state, said Amerman. Eventually the state financial assistance will phase out completely, he continued.
"When the grant first started, it was funded 100 percent," Amerman said. "But to continue efforts even after the money's gone will still show the same commitment to fighting DUIs."