LAURINBURG — For many, the holiday season provides a respite from the worries and stresses that mark the rest of the year, and the same held doubly true for the Laurinburg Police Department during a Friday evening Christmas party.
Officers, patrolmen, and retirees alike gathered with their spouses — to whom Chief Darwin Williams expressed his gratitude for sharing their loved ones with an unpredictable line of work — at Scotch Meadows Country Club to recognize those who have distinguished themselves in the course of their service this year.
Introduced by Capt. Terry Chavis as “this next clown,” Caleb Locklear was presented with the Officer of the Year award. A secret ballot among the police department determined the winners of Friday’s awards. On the force since 2013, Locklear’s name came up the most in nominations for the honor.
Williams recalled coaching Locklear in Parks and Recreation football 17 years ago, and said that it is encouraging for the department when local youth become able officers.
“His signature is what you see right now, that smile — that smile is Caleb. If he writes you a ticket, trust me, he’s writing it like this…” Williams mimed. “I’m proud of him and I’m proud of his growth. It’s good to have men like him coming up through the department.”
The department’s supervisor of the year, Lt. Chris Strickland, serves as supervisor of the K9 unit as well as neighborhood watch commander and assistant SWAT team leader.
“I’d like to thank everybody that helped me get here,” Strickland said to an swell of appreciative laughter from the crowd. “My wife’s kept me straight all these years and I’ve got a good group of guys that work for me.”
Presenting Detective Rodney Strickland with the Investigator of the Year award, Assistant Chief Cliff Sessoms remarked upon a lengthy, and rarely dull, career spent with Strickland.
“We started out together and worked as buddies and I love him like a brother,” said Sessoms.
Also recognized was Jennifer Clark as administrative assistant of the year. James Munger, who was named the department’s top shooter, was one of eight in the department to shoot with at least 99 percent accuracy in the department’s spring and fall shooting qualifications.
Munger in turn was the one to present the department’s Outstanding Citizen award to Beacham McDougald of McDougald Funeral Home and Crematorium.
“Mr. Beacham and Mrs. Lynn have not only been good to Scotland County, they’ve been good to me and a lot of other police officers,” said Munger. “I am so truly humbled and so truly glad to call him a friend.”
Although the police department’s daily operations don’t always involve circumstances that inspire celebration, Williams pointed out that the holiday season is also one of hope and unity.
“I know we’ve had shootings and some things to take place, but we still have hope,” he said. “In this day in age, if you don’t have hope you’re not going to survive.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.