DARE coordinator named county’s officer of the year
A Leavenworth County sheriff's deputy takes community policing to heart.
And it's that commitment that earned Connie Anderson the county's Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award.
Anderson, 51, is in her 16th year with the sheriff's department. Since 1991, she has coordinated the department's Drug Abuse Resistance Education program in schools throughout Leavenworth County.
"I humbly accept it for my DARE kids," Anderson said recently about her honors. "I was totally shocked and very honored. It's a great honor to see that people recognize the importance of the DARE program."
While her work in the program was a pivotal reason for her selection for the annual honor, it was more Anderson's work beyond the bounds of the program that attracted the selection committee's attention.
"She's like a mom to the county," said panel chairman Charley Shoemaker. "Every time a child is feeling bad or has a problem, they call Connie at the sheriff's department. She even takes phone calls at her house. She's motivated to helping kids."
The award, and others recognizing law officers' contributions, was presented last week during the 16th annual Peace Officers and Police Awards and Memorial Day event in Leavenworth. The Leavenworth Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 56 and the Eagles Aerie co-host the event.
Anderson said her work with DARE is rewarding.
"I feel like DARE has been a calling for me," she said. "It's been great, the years of working with the kids."
Taking the program to more than 15,000 school children is community policing at its best, she said.
A young woman, who was in Anderson's first DARE class in 1991, still keeps in touch. She calls on holidays and often writes.
"I keep up with that student because she needs my support," Anderson said. "She's in her 20s, now."
It's the self-esteem the program teaches that Anderson sees as most valuable.
"That's my very favorite lesson," she said.
Other officers who were honored last week include these men, who were named officers of the year for their departments: Chief Walter L. Ellingwood, Veterans Administration Police Department; Cpl. James O. Bridges, Leavenworth Police Department; and Sgt. Benjamin Ontiveros, Lansing Police Department.
These people also were recognized:
Beverley Knight, office of the provost marshal, Fort Leavenworth, certificate of appreciation.
Office Robin Mock, Lansing Police Department, safety award.
Commendations: Anderson; Officer Robin Mock of the Lansing Police Department; Deputy Ray Spellman of the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office; and Officer Robin Mark of the Lansing Police Department.
Long and honorable service: Officer Gilbert Forgey, Leavenworth Police Department; K. Janette Nessmith-Eyerly and Kim Ross, records clerks, Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office; sheriff's Deputy Jerry Lorenzo; Doug Dais, sheriff's office dispatcher; sheriff's Lt. Don Murry; sheriff's Sgts. Rod Schubert and Larry Eyerly; and sheriff's Major Dave Zoellner.
By VFW Post 56: Basehor police Officer Jason D. Slaughter, merit award for excellent arrest; Lansing police Officer John Gable, certificate of achievement in criminal investigation; and Leavenworth police Officer Jayme Green, bravery award.
By VFW Post 56 Auxiliary: Leavenworth County sheriff's Sgt. Brian Holmes and K-9 "Illo," merit award for excellent arrest.
By Eagles Aerie 55: Leavenworth County sheriff's Deputy Eric Thorne, merit award for excellent arrest; Lansing police Sgt. Anthony Waterman, certificate of achievement in criminal investigation; and sheriff's Deputy Zen Daniels, lifesaving citation.
By Elk's Lodge 661: Leavenworth police Officer Cheryl Morrow, merit award for excellent arrest; Lansing police Sgt. Sergeant Benjamin Ontiveros, certificate of achievement in criminal investigation; and sheriff's Deputy Kelley Carreno, lifesaving citation.
By American Legion Post 23: Leavenworth police Cpl. Todd Bledsoe, merit award for excellent arrest.
By American Legion Post 23 Auxiliary: Leavenworth police Sgt. William Slusher, merit award for excellent arrest.
By Retired Eagles Activities Committee: sheriff's Tactical Assistance Group, merit award for excellent arrest.
By Knights of Columbus Council 900: Leavenworth police Officer Johnny Sweet, merit award for excellent arrest.
By Eagles Auxiliary Aerie 55: sheriff's Deputy Eric Thorne, merit award for excellent arrest.
By American Legion Post 94: sheriff's Detective Mark Metcalf, certificate of achievement in criminal investigation.
By American Legion Auxiliary Post 94: sheriff's Detective Mike Wehmeyer, certificate of achievement in criminal investigation, and sheriff's Deputy Christine Hirshberg, lifesaving citation.
By Lady Knights of Columbus Council 900: Basehor police Officer Jason Slaughter, certificate of achievement in criminal investigation.
By Prisoners of War chapter: Jayme Rader, sheriff's detective clerk, certificate of achievement in criminal investigation, and sheriff's Sgt. David Jennings, lifesaving citation.
By Disabled American Veterans Chapter 7: Leavenworth police Officer Ralph Sorrell and sheriff's Detective Mark Metcalf, certificate of achievement in criminal investigation.
The Leavenworth Police Department presented special awards to two reserve officers, Gilbert Forgey and Gerald Thompson.
These men who are retiring also were recognized: Chief Walter L. Ellingwood, Lt. Larry R. Phillips, Officer Harry A. Cappel Jr., Officer Lewis W. Mitchell and Officer James A. Hill, all of Veterans Administration police; and Officer Eugene (Gene) Tomrell and Lt. James V. Dyson Sr., both of Leavenworth police.