Above and beyond

KACP Valor Awards

Written by Karen Long

“It’s so important that our law enforcement across the state know they’re valued and that we, the community, appreciate them,” says Jennifer Duffy. Duffy is executive director of the Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police (KACP), and one of her responsibilities is to provide official recognition of quick thinking, courage and sacrifice in the field, through the Valor Awards ceremony and banquet.

This last May, 57 officers from every branch of law enforcement were recognized for their high standard of commitment and service that goes above and beyond just “good police work,” Duffy explains. Undersheriffs, street cops, FBI agents and more — even a parks and recreation officer — have been honored for extraordinary service and dedication to the citizens of Kansas. Three of them gave their lives in the line of duty, and were honored with the Chief’s Award: Detective Brad D. Lancaster, Captain Robert D. Melton and Master Deputy Brandon Collins.

Individual and Unit Honors

Hesston Police Chief Doug Schroeder was presented with a Gold Award for entering an Excel factory without backup to take out an active shooter, saving lives and preventing untold trauma.

In an interview, Schroeder couldn’t discuss in detail what was going through his mind as he went through that door, due to liability issues, but he said training took over.

“It’s a whole lot less emotional thinking than it is thinking about strategy, and recalling what you’ve done in training and what you’ve learned as best practices.”

Did he ever expect that his training and experience would put him in the middle of something like the Excel shooting, or that he’d be recognized by the community for it?

“Oh no. No, of course not,” he said. In fact, if he’d followed a career quiz recommendation in high school, Schroeder would be a teacher right now. It also spit out his least likely job match: law enforcement.

“Still, to this day, I don’t know if the program had its flaws, or if I’m that kind of person, going against the grain, but here, 20 years later I’m still doing it.”

Schroeder says the Hesston community has vowed not to let this incident define them, and are pulling together to make sure that everyone affected is getting the support they need. And he’s part of the effort, speaking to groups in private industry about how to handle similar situations in the future.

“I feel a sense of responsibility to pay forward lessons we’ve learned, and help others prepare.”

Departmental units are also recognized at the Valor Awards, and several were honored for their response to the Excel shooting. A father and daughter team stood together on the stage during the black tie banquet in Overland Park, each one accepting a Gold Unit Award on behalf of a Harvey County law enforcement agency. Harvey County Sheriff Chad Gay accepted for the Harvey County Sheriff’s Office, while his daughter, Morgan Hinz, accepted for the Newton Police Department.

“Very proud, very proud moment,” Gay said. He worked with his daughter at Newton PD before being elected sheriff, and they were both “on the outskirts” of the Excel shooting. In addition, Hinz, who is also a nationally certified EMT, was recognized for preventing an infant from choking in an unrelated incident.

A year and a half after his daughter joined the Newton PD in January of 2016, Gay says, “She loves it. She thinks that she’s won the lottery….She gets paid to do something that she really loves. She’s a go-getter.”

Tee up for Valor

On August 11, over 140 golfers will tee off at Sand Creek Station in the Valor Golf Tournament. Chief Schroeder and Sedgwick County Sheriff, Jeff Easter will be among them. Also, members of the public who enjoy “having that elbow-to-elbow contact with someone who you normally just see driving around in a car,” according to Mark Koenigsman of Voice Products Inc, the tournament’s presenting sponsor.

Koenigsman is the operations manager for the event, which he expects to raise well over $20,000 to support the Valor Awards and provide financial support to the families of officers who’ve lost their lives.

Voice Products works with the heads of law enforcement agencies in Kansas to provide recording systems for 911 dispatch, interrogation rooms, children’s advocacy centers, courtroom reporting and voice-recognition dictation for officers in the field. They’ve sponsored the tournament since 2012, says Pat Teschke, Voice Products regional manager. With the backing of co-owners, Stuart Peters and Gene Tullis, the event has flourished and raised over $75,000 to date for the KACP Valor Awards program.

Golfers this year can look forward to a welcome by the mayor of Newton and the presenting of colors by an honor guard.

“It really adds to the feel of it, and it’s just fun,” says Koenigsman. A bounty of food will be donated, starting out with breakfast burritos from Jimmy’s Egg and doughnuts from Krispy Kreme, Hurts Donuts and Flying Donuts, and going all the way through lunch by Corporate Caterers and 700 wings by Buffalo Wild Wings. Soft drinks and beer will be provided by Jacob’s Liquor.

With about $6,000 in door prizes, including two 60-inch screen TVs, the organizers’ goal is for no one to go home empty-handed. And the winner of the hole-in-one contest will drive home in a new car.

“There’s no doubt it’s going to be our best year so far,” says Koenigsman.

The same is true for next year’s Valor Awards banquet, which is coming to Wichita in 2018. It’s grown from 150 attendees to 500 in recent years. Even now, the law enforcement officers who will be honored next spring are busy in the community, working long hours, putting their training to use in threatening situations and saving lives.

“I’m on the selection committee,” says Jennifer Duffy. ”To be in that moment, to put a face to the story and see their family’s response to their heroics. It’s just a very humbling experience.”

Valor Golf Tournament
Presented by Voice Products Inc.
August 11th, 2017
Sand Creek Station, Newton, KS
valorgolf.com

Registration: 7:30 a.m.
Announcements and driving range opens: 8:00 a.m.
Shotgun start: 9:00 a.m.

Entry fee: $500 per team, field limited to the first 36 teamsFormat: Four-man scramble, over $1,400.00 in prize money

Course contests: Longest drive, John Daly Drive on hole #10, closest to the pin, and many more

Entry fee includes continental breakfast, on-course snacks, adult and non-alcoholic beverages, lunch, post-tournament hot wings and beverages and a tournament gift bag.

 
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