Banquet honors law officers

Tue, 05/13/2008 - 3:49pm
By: Ben Nelms

First Baptist Church in Fayetteville was packed May 8 as officers from across the Griffin Judicial Circuit were honored at the Second annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Banquet sponsored by District Attorney Scott Ballard.

“The purpose tonight is to pay tribute to those who work for us, not knowing what they are going to face,” Ballard said at the outset of the banquet, noting the daily uncertainty with which officers perform the duties of their job.

The Award for Overcoming Adversity went to Fayette SO and Drug Task Force Capt. Mike Pruitt, referred to by Ballard as “Bear Bryant with a badge.”

Pruitt received the award due to the way he dealt with adversity when facing it, Ballard said, referencing Pruitt’s recent diagnosis of cancer, his unexplained remission and his acknowledgment of the reason for his return to duty.

“When we all thought he would die within days, Mike said, ‘I’m not afraid to die. It’s up to God,’” Ballard noted of the long-time officer and Pruitt’s belief in God that transcends the advancements of medical science.

Thomaston Police Lt. Alvin Marshall was selected Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. Serving on the force for 16 years, Marshall is a shift supervisor and departmental P.O.S.T. firearms instructor.

“(Marshall) is highly involved in the Upson County community, especially with the recreation department. He has been coaching basketball and other youth league sports for several years. He often encounters his former athletes, now grown, and they still refer to him as coach,” Ballard said. “He spends a lot of his free time in the summer donating his time to the youth athletic program with the Upson County Recreational Department. He also teaches driver’s education classes.”

Marshall was one of nine finalists for the honor. Others included Peachtree City Lt. Mark Brown, Fayette County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) Lt. Steve Coker, FCSO Det. Ethon Harper, Fayetteville Det. Scott Israel, Spalding SO Special Agent Chase Hallman, Griffin PD Cpl. Willie Neal, Zebulon PD Sgt. Scott Pippin and Griffin PD Lt. Mike Richardson.

But the officer of the year award was far from the only honor bestowed May 8. Others included awards for overcoming adversity, service to youth, the new Robert Groninger Scholarship and the award for judicial circuit fifth grade essays on law enforcement.

The Service to Youth Award recipient was Griffin Police Officer Morris Pike, who Ballard said had spent his life’s work preaching against substance abuse and promoting good character. Pike is involved in the community’s D.A.R.E. and anti-gang programs.

And receiving new Robert Groninger Scholarship was Thomaston’s Alexis Marie Romano, who amassed a 97.9 high school grade point average and is bound for University of Georgia and studies in Criminal Justice. The scholarship was established in honor of Robert Groninger, a Fayette County business owner who became a murder victim two years ago. His family established the scholarship to honor Groninger’s friendship with law enforcement.

Rounding out the evening’s events were essays on law enforcement written by fifth-graders from across the Griffin Judicial Circuit.

Finalists in the contest were Anslee Broome from Brooks Elementary, Ellie Cape from Crescent Elementary, Carson Ensell from Spring Hill Elementary, Jordan Jones from Tyrone Elementary, Madison MacLaughlin from Crabapple Elementary, Jordan Peeples from Pike Elementary, Anne Rentz from Peeples Elementary, Jacob Robbins from Jordan Hill Elementary, Samantha Roberson from Peachtree City Elementary and Carley Seay from Upson Lee Elementary who provided the cover design for the essay booklet.

Peeples Elementary fifth grader Anne Rentz was selected the contest winner, writing of those in law enforcement that try to shut down evil in communities.

“By now, you must be wondering who these people are exactly,” Rentz said in an explanation of the role that officer’s play in a community. “They are normal men and women like you. Unlike you, they stand in danger’s face for you. Many die each year, all to keep us safe. They should be remembered so they would not have died in vain.”

And perhaps as significant as any award presented by Ballard at the 2nd Annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Banquet were the recognitions of those who serve continuously. Sheriffs throughout the judicial circuit were recognized, as were police chiefs, support staff and all officers.

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