By BOB GIBBINS
Representatives of local law enforcement agencies turned out Tuesday to honor their peers – including one who was honored for his 45-year law enforcement career.
The event is hosted annually by Tahlequah Elks Lodge 2601. Terry Bryan, exalted ruler, thanked all the agencies for participating in the event and for their service to the community.
Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office personnel chose to honor their leader, Sheriff Norman Fisher, this year. Fisher is in his third term as sheriff after serving 16 years as Tahlequah’s police chief.
“Anyone who can be in law enforcement for 45 years, and 25 of that as an elected official, is doing something right,” an emotional Undersheriff Jason Chennault said.
“You’ve made Cherokee County a safer place to live and work. You’re a role model and a hero for all of us.”
Chennault’s remarks were accompanied by a brief video that featured comments from people who have worked with and for Fisher during his career, along with pictures from throughout his tenure.
“We know you don’t like to be put on the spot,” Chennault told his boss. “You say that when the department gets credit, then you get credit.”
The undersheriff said he and the rest of Fisher’s employees believe Fisher doesn’t get enough credit. He said it was a struggle to come up with the right words to lead into Fisher’s award.
“I don’t know one person who could have come up with the right words,” he said. “You’re respected, and you’ve touched a lot of lives.”
Fisher told the crowd of officers and their families he doesn’t consider his employees workers, but rather feels as though they’re family.
He also acknowledged the award was a surprise.
He said he was keeping his remarks short because he, too, was getting emotional.
Police Chief Nate King, in making some opening remarks, said law enforcement in Cherokee County is “truly blessed” because all in all, the county supports law enforcement.
He was a college student working at a convenience store when he did a “ride-along” with former Tahlequah Police Officer Casey Baker.
“It took one time and I was hooked,” King said. “Norman [Fisher] hired me as a dispatcher.”
King said those who choose law enforcement as a career – himself included – wind up missing birthdays, anniversaries and other significant events, but the work gets in your blood.
“You have to answer the call,” he said. “You may not get to go home at the end of your scheduled shift, or you might have to come in early.”
King said law enforcement families sacrifice on a daily basis.
“Our families are as dedicated to the badges as we are,” he said.
Several other officers were honored
Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission Ranger Capt. Bill James presented the Ranger of the Year honor to Dustin Davis, a part-time ranger and full-time Keetoowah Lighthorse officer. Davis logged most of the OSRC’s 100-plus DUI arrests in 2013, James said. He said Davis never had a citizen complaint about his work.
NSU Police Chief Patti Buhl presented her department’s award to Detective Sgt. Jim Flores, who started his career in California in 1992 and has been with the campus police for five years. Buhl called Flores a team leader and investigator, adding that he is dedicated to the community and has developed the department’s Facebook page.
Cherokee Nation Marshal Service Director Shannon Buhl said the CNMS was honoring Marshal Jess Anderson, who has served as a firearms instructor and been on the SWAT team. Buhl said Anderson served about $1 million in warrants in the 14-county Cherokee Nation jurisdiction.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol Capt. Damon Tucker said Trooper Tommy Mullins, Trooper of the Year, was one of many quality OHP officers who work in the area. He said Mullins has been assigned to Cherokee County since 2001, and has nearly 20,000 contacts and about 500 DUI arrests to his credit. Tucker said Mullins ranks highly in several categories for which records are kept.
District Attorney Brian Kuester presented the DA Officer of the Year award to Investigator Chris Goforth. He said Goforth was working for the district – as a bogus check investigator – when Kuester became DA. Since that time, he has been assigned to work on violence against women cases. His current assignment is with the DA’s drug K-9. Kuester said Goforth has the heart and drive needed for the job and works well with other agencies.
King presented three awards, to Officer Cory Keele, Reserve Officer Austin Yates and Dispatcher Angie Scott.
Keele and Yates were involved in the rescue of a Basin Street family during a July 2013 flood. King said Keele has made several street-level drug arrests with the help of his K-9 officer, and those arrests have led to several search warrants.
King said Yates has logged more reserve hours than the other reserve officers combined. He said reserve officers volunteer their time, and Yates can always be counted on to be there when needed. Scott works as a dispatcher for the police department and sheriff’s office and remains calm, cool and collected when handling her duties.