By PAUL CHASON
Special to Atmore News
The Billy Glenn Rushing Post 90 of the American Legion is active in the National Law Officer of the Year program sponsored by the American Legion. We will soon be entering our third year of seeking input and recognizing deserving officers within our service area of Escambia County, Alabama. Last year’s Post 90 awardee was Sgt. Ryan James of the Atmore Police Department.
Like many, many things Post 90’s recognition of this year’s officer was scheduled, delayed, and rescheduled multiple times since COVID impacted our lives. Finally, on October 29 at the Escambia County courthouse in Brewton, we were able to recognize Investigator Matt Jernigan of the Escambia County Alabama Sheriff’s Department.
Investigator Jernigan is a full-time Deputy Sheriff and was certified as an Alabama Peace Officer in May 2016. Investigator Jernigan was recognized as the Outstanding Deputy Sheriff of the Year in December 2019. Most notably, Investigator Jernigan was chosen as the Lead Investigator on a missing person’s case for a person traveling from Virginia to Conecuh County, Alabama in October 2018. She never arrived and her car was found in a wooded area in Conecuh County. This case spanned several counties and multiple states, to include Hawaii, and required many hours of thorough investigative work. Investigator Jernigan worked with various state and national agencies during the case.
While recognized for this award, Jernigan was very quick to point out this was a department award that required everyone’s input and hard work throughout the year.
“Without each of you, the patrol officers we could not solve cases,” he said. “Your hard work interviewing people, working the streets, and filing the necessary reports are crucial to solving cases. Thank you all for doing a great job every day.”
Jernigan also thanked Major Blair and Sheriff Jackson for mentorship and guidance to help him grow and become better skilled at his job. Last, but certainly not least, he recognized his wife for her support and understanding.
Commander Dave Graham of the Billy Glenn Rushing Post presented Investigator Jernigan with a plaque, a certificate, and a flag flown over our Nation’s Capital as requested by Senator Richard Shelby with an accompanying certificate as small tokens of the Post’s appreciation.
In closing, I want to provide a brief overview and explanation of why this is an important program. Each year, The American Legion gives its National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award to a well-rounded law enforcement officer who has exceeded the duty requirements expected of his or her position and has demonstrated a distinct pattern of community service coupled with professional achievement. The national award, which especially takes into account heroic acts, is presented annually at the Legion’s national convention.
Each State may submit only one nomination per year. Only state winners are eligible for the national award, which should be accepted at the national convention. Unfortunately, the 2020 National Convention is on hold – COVID!
The National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award recognizes officers who go above the call of duty. A major secondary purpose of this award is to encourage further development of department and post Law and Order Committees through continued recognition of law enforcement officers. It is firmly believed this award serves to promote public trust and support of our law enforcement agencies.
Soon, Post 90 will be providing application packages to local agencies for submission and consideration of our next Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. I am sure there are many deserving officers in our community. We hope to hear about them!
Paul Chason is Adjutant of Billy Glenn Rushing Post 90, Atmore.