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AAA recognized 19 West Virginia law enforcement agencies for community efforts at a ceremony held at the Marshall Hall of Fame Cafe in Huntington Monday afternoon.
J.J. Miller, the safety adviser for AAA East Central, said the departments have improved traffic safety through awareness, education and consistency, helping to reduce the number of fatalities on the roadways.
“They report statistical evidence that they made a difference in their communities,” Miller said.
Three agencies earned platinum status, the highest level of the award. That includes the Huntington Police Department and the West Virginia State Police detachments in Huntington and Ripley.
“We just like to try to do our part,” Huntington Police Department Capt. Mike Albers said. “We’ve had a lot of different programs we’ve participated in over the years that has increased our seat belt usage, and our underage drinking effort that has curtailed accidents.”
Albers also said that traffic enforcement often gets overlooked because of higher profile cases or incidents. But he pointed out that those officers have the highest call load.
Trooper Brian Ward of the State Police detachment in Huntington said the recognition means a lot for those working in such a dangerous profession.
“It makes you feel better about what you do,” Ward said. “It’s a stressful job.”
Ward said he and his fellow troopers often get letters or phone calls from people expressing their gratitude for the work the State Police does. That, on top of statewide recognition, provides extra motivation.
“It makes you want to continue doing what you’re doing,” Ward said. “Going out there and making a difference.”
Among the departments honored with gold status include Barboursville, Ceredo and Point Pleasant police departments. The Cabell County Sheriff’s Office earned silver distinction, and Hurricane, Kenova and Milton police departments, along with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, earned bronze.
“We appreciate an entity that notices what officers do an a day-to-day basis,” Milton Police Chief Gregg Mullins said.
Four Watertown Police Department officers are retiring today after 20 years of service, according to Chief Joseph Goss.
The officers retiring today are:
Lt. Christopher Damon – B Platoon Commander, former Detective Sergeant, Task Force Investigator and range instructor. Damon has received numerous awards for service on the Drug Task Force and was Officer of the year in 1993.
Officer Kevin Froedtert – Ranger Instructor, Field Training Officer, Evidence Technician and Investigator. Officer Froedtert received special recognition in 1994 for his part in talking down a suicidal subject armed with a knife.
Officer Gary Egeberg – Formerly training director for the Black River St. lawrence Valley Police Academy. Master Instructor through DJCS. In 1993, Officer Egeberg was one of two officers who apprehended a suspect in a murder at the Poor House Tavern in Watertown.
Officer Robert Newark – K-9 officer for two dogs, Thor and Duka. K-9 instructor who headed the Watertown K-9 unit for several years. Officer Newark was recognized in 1993 for disarming a suicidal subject.
Due to the retirement of these four officers, three WPD officers will be assuming new duties effective Monday: Sergeant Michael Mullins promoted to Lieutenant and made commander of C platoon; Officer Michael Labarge promoted to sergeant; Officer Erica Derouin promoted to detective.