Posted: Wednesday, July 25th 2012 at 1:18am
Habersham County Sheriff's Office receives national award
By Rob Moore Editor
Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, congratulates Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell on the department's win of the Clayton J. Hall Memorial Award, a first-ever in the state of Georgia. (Photo/Rob Moore)
CLARKESVILLE – The Habersham County Sheriff's Office has brought home an honor that is a first in the state of Georgia.
Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, was in Clarkesville Tuesday to share information about that award with Sheriff Joey Terrell and others.
“This is a great day for Georgia, a great day for Habersham County,” Blackwood said.
“We have traditionally had a history of having winners in the National Law Enforcement Challenge,” Blackwood said. “But this marks the first time we have won the big award, which is the Clayton J. Hall Memorial Award.”
The National Law Enforcement Challenge is a national traffic safety awards program coordinated by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, recognizing excellent in law enforcement traffic safety programs.
The Clayton J. Hall Memorial Award honors the memory of one of the founders of the IACP National Chiefs’ Challenge, the original name for the NLEC. The award recognizes the most comprehensive traffic safety program submitted each year out of all categories.
“We’ve had others who have won in a smaller category – Franklin County has won in 25 and under – and what happens is when these are judged, they take these first-place entries with the most points from all categories, and they are judged for the best of the best, which is the Clayton J. Hall Award,” Blackwood said. “Theoretically, this could put them against a group as big as the California Highway Patrol with thousands of sworn officers.”
“In the category of sheriff’s offices from 25 to 50 sworn officers, they [HCSO] were judged the best in the country,” Blackwood said. “Second place, incidentally, went to the Elbert County Sheriff’s Office, another of our good partnerships in northeast Georgia. We’re really proud to have first and second in that category.”
And Blackwood reiterated that competition is based on the quality of a department’s program, not its size.
“When you compete for the Clayton J. Hall Award, you’re not competing on your size,” Blackwood said. “You’re competing on the quality of your program and the quality of your application. I think it speaks volumes that an agency with under 50 sworn officers serving a modest-size community in Georgia can win a national award. This is a great day for our state!”
Blackwood lauded Terrell for his support of the Northeast Traffic Enforcement Network and GOHS.
“Let me thank Sheriff Terrell for his leadership in being a proactive member of our enforcement team,” Blackwood said. “The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety has a staff of 23 people to serve nine million Georgians. We can’t do it without partners, and one of our great partners is the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office.”
Blackwood alluded to the two four-lane highways running through Habersham County, Georgia Highway 365 and Georgia Highway 15 (U.S. Highway 441).
“I am so pleased that they have been a busy and active partner in an important region,” Blackwood said. “The [Georgia Highway] 365 corridor and going on up toward [U.S. Highway] 441 is a busy place, especially in fall of the year, but at any time during the year. It is important for us to have a good partner in traffic safety, and they have stepped up to the challenge.”
Terrell said the magnitude of the national honor is continuing to sink in.
“It’s not that we have done anything extraordinary,” Terrell said. “We just focused on seatbelt safety, we focused on DUIs, we focused on the things for public safety that we need to focus on. The 365 corridor has come to light in the last few weeks because of accidents and deaths we’ve had on it, but we focus countywide on all of our efforts, working the back roads, working the county roads, working the other state routes. Every man and woman in our department participates in it, and it’s an honor for everyone.”
“It’s an honor for our whole county to be proud of,” Terrell said. “It’s a humbling honor to have. Who would have thought that a little place in northeast Georgia would get this kind of honor from your peers in the nation?”
Blackwood said the award will be presented in September in San Diego, Calif., and emphasized it is a truly national, and international, award.
“It is the International Association of Chiefs of Police,” Blackwood said. “You will see officers there from Canada, from England, from Brazil. There are some competitors in this from Canada and last year I remember they had an entry from Brazil, so it is truly an international award.”
Blackwood pointed out the book prepared by Habersham County Sheriff’s Sgt. Richard Stein and Capt. Robin Krockum as the department’s entry does not contain plans or what the department would like to do, but rather is a tangible demonstration of programs in place.
“The book and the entry is not just a ‘let’s make up something,’” Blackwood said. “The book and the entry is a documentation of enforcement efforts that have taken place in this county.”
Blackwood talked about the state’s 16 Traffic Enforcement Networks, each serving some 10 counties.
“This is one of our best networks,” Blackwood said. “We have a lot of sheriffs around this state who participate with our networks, but I want to tell you every time I have come to a network meeting in this area, the sheriff himself is present – and that is a sign of his commitment to traffic safety.”
Griggs Wall of Gainesville Police Department, coordinator of the Northeast Traffic Enforcement Network (NETEN) said the network consists of 10 counties, 44 agencies in northeast Georgia.
“Habersham County Sheriff’s Department has been a strong department since I’ve been coordinator of the network,” Wall said. “This award is awesome to come to the network and it’s awesome to come to Habersham County. The great part about Habersham winning it, I was raised in Habersham, I live in Habersham, and it’s where I raise my family, so it makes it personal that it comes here.”
“My family and I travel the roads of Habersham with the initiatives that the sheriff’s department has put in place for traffic enforcement, it makes our roads safer up here,” Wall said. “I just want to congratulate Sheriff Terrell and the Habersham Sheriff’s Department on winning this award. It’s an honor. We competed against some big agencies, all the way up to the California Highway Patrol, and it shows that here in Habersham we’re top-notch.”
Terrell credited other agencies that are part of the network, saying idea sharing helps each to make their respective programs better.
“That’s what the networks are for,” Terrell said. “You come together, you mesh together, and you work together as one unit. We all share in this award really, because they’ve helped us do many things, and we’ve gotten good ideas from them, and we share ideas back and forth.”
Habersham County started attending the network meetings in about 1997.
“We started going when they first started,” Terrell said. “I remember going to the meetings, and traveling to different counties.”
Terrell stressed his department’s efforts on the roads are not limited to traffic enforcement.
“A lot of people think that you’re just out working traffic, you’re not looking for any other thing, but you have to think on the other side that bad guys travel on the roads, too, and that’s how we get a lot of stuff,” Terrell said. “That’s how we get a lot of dope, that’s how we get a lot of burglaries, that’s how we get a lot of suspended license, how we get a lot of DUIs, because they all travel the roads and they all go from Point A to Point B. We’re multi-tasking in what we do. Our officers do an outstanding job of it.”
Blackwood again stressed the accomplishment of HCSO.
“The Habersham County Sheriff’s Office is one of the best of the best in the nation,” Blackwood said. “As director of this organization, this is a great day for us.”
“We’re proud of our sheriff and proud of our county being able to do this,” said Habersham County Commission Chairman Lee Mulkey. “This is unique in that it’s not just a state award and not just a national award, but a national championship award. It’s a demonstration that even in a county like Habersham we can achieve the heights of accomplishment that are associated with national competition. We’re all very pleased about that, very proud of it, and congratulate the sheriff and the sheriff’s department on that. It’s our role to try to support him wherever we can, especially when it comes to the very highest quality of service to our citizens.”
Commissioner Sonny James echoed Mulkey’s sentiments, saying the county’s commissioners are proud of the accomplishments of the sheriff’s office.
Elbert County Sheriff's Office, which placed second in the NLEC, saw members of its STEALTH (Sheriff's Tactical Enforcement and Apprehension to save Lives on The Highways) Division and patrol division honored at the eighth-annual MADD Golden Shield Honors Banquet in March.
Elbert County Cpl. Marc Fleming was honored for 40 DUI arrests, Cpl. Carey Fewox was honored for 39 DUI arrests, DFC Carissa Robins was honored for 35 DUI arrests, and Sgt. Blake Young was honored for 25 DUI arrests. In addition, Deputy Darren Sartain was recognized for 31 DUI arrests and Deputy Kyle Williams was recognized for 25 DUI arrests. Sartain and Williams are with the department's patrol division. All six officers received the MADD bronze pins for their enforcement efforts.
Blackwood said Georgia is fortunate to have good law enforcement agencies throughout.
“We are very fortunate statewide to have law enforcement agencies of all sizes stepping up to the line because they want their communities to be safe, and one of the places you start is on the highways,” Blackwood said. “High-visibility traffic enforcement is a deterrent to crime everywhere, and that’s one of the messages we like to send.”
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