Six law enforcement officers from Hall County were honored Tuesday by the Gainesville Kiwanis Club as recipients of the John W. Jacobs Sr. Memorial Award for Excellence in Law Enforcement.
This was the 18th year the Kiwanis Club had given the awards.
During the luncheon ceremony, several speakers and recipients mentioned that 2015 is a difficult time to be a law enforcement officer. There have been a number of incidents, most notably in Ferguson, Ill. and Baltimore, where police officers have been involved in controversial shooting, and law enforcement have become targets of violence in other cities.
"Public safety officers put their lives on the line for us," said Avery Niles, commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice and keynote speaker at Tuesday's awards. "And not just their lives, but their whole careers. Look at what society is doing today to our law enforcement officers. They understand that the day may be coming where they will be put into a position where the ultimate sacrifice may be given. ... What they do is a form of servanthood. They have a servant's heart. They give all that they have and then some."
Niles said that 127 law enforcement officers were killed last year in the line of duty, including accidents en route to crime scenes, as well as violence. Already 44 have died in 2015.
"It seems like it's open season on law enforcement officers," Niles said.
- Officer Chris Letson of the Gainesville Police Department. Letson spent four years in the U.S. Marines and four years with the Department of Juvenile Justice before spending the last 10 years on the Gainesville police force. He was presented the award by Chief Carol Martin.
- Lt. Stephanie Gilbert, who heads the records division for the Hall County Sheriff's Office. She joined the sheriff's department in 1989 as a secretary, but left to attend the Police Academy in the early 1990s. After graduating, she returned and has been rising through the ranks, said Maj. Kevin Head, who presented the award.
- Trooper Jonathan Munger of the Georgia State Patrol. He has spent the last four years patrolling Hall, White and Banks counties for the state patrol. He was presented the award by Sgt. Richard Harper, who called Munger "one of the best law enforcement officers in Hall County."
- Sgt. Jim Lockaby of the Hall County Correctional Institute. He has spent nearly 30 years in law enforcement and is currently director of food services at the correctional institute, where he oversees the preparation of 250,000 meals every year. He was presented the award by Warden Walt Davis.
- Sgt. Acondria Fleming of the Gainesville Regional Youth Detention Center. She has worked at the facility since 1999. She was presented the award by Chuck Hewitt, director of the RYDC.
- Ranger Anne Britt of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division. Britt has spent 20 years as a game warden. For the last four yearss, she has been a member of the Critical Incident Reconstruction Team, or CIRT, which investigates boating accidents. Britt was presented her award by Sgt. Steve Seitz.