Heroes celebrated at the Missoula Law Enforcement Banquet

Posted at 8:50 AM, Dec 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-14 20:17:32-05

MISSOULA – Missoula’s law enforcement community honored their best and brightest during the 46th annual Law Enforcement Awards Banquet on Thursday.

Eight officers from the police and sheriff’s department, UM’s police force, dispatchers, detention officers and Fish, Wildlife and Parks received ‘officer of the year’ awards.

KPAX’s Jill Valley and Dennis Bragg emceed the event alongside keynote speaker Montana Attorney General Tim Fox. The event also raised money for “the Parenting Place”, a local non-profit dedicated to preventing child abuse.

Here’s a list of those who were honored at the event:

  • Missoula County 911 Dispatcher Todd May
  • Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Timothy Templeton
  • Montana Probation & Parole Officer Nate Martin
  • Missoula Police Department Sgt. Matt Kazinsky
  • University of Montana Police Sgt. Brad Giffen
  • Missoula County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Ken Guy
  • Missoula County Detention Division Officer Cameron Brewer
  • Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Officer Bill Kopper

You can read Tim Fox’s remarks from the event below.

Members of the Exchange Club, men and women of the law enforcement community, ladies and gentlemen, my fellow Montanans, good evening.

Thank you for the invitation to share this special time with you. It is always a pleasure to come back to Missoula.

Many years ago, with longer hair and fewer pounds, the University of Montana campus was home for me. I’m still a loyal Griz, though had you been in Helena last weekend you would have seen Bobcat flags on my car. That’s what I get for losing a bet.

Winston Churchill once said that “To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.”

Churchill’s words came to mind in 2013, when I had the privilege of presenting the Montana Highway Patrol’s Award of Valor to ten troopers and sheriff deputies. For these officers, the figurative tap on the shoulder came on a cold November day in 2012.

Their shifts began as most do, quietly. Then the call came, and suddenly these officers were in pursuit of a dangerous criminal who was, among other things, throwing pipe bombs out of his car window while being chased. The officers risked their lives to apprehend him without a single loss of life. They stepped up and did what they were trained to do, and they did it with courage and professionalism.

They were prepared, they were qualified, and they demonstrated the highest ideals of valor that we hope for.

To the law enforcement officers who will be honored this evening, and to all officers present, I ask, are you prepared for the call?

Churchill lived through world-changing events, he held his people together and saw his country through horrors that threatened its very existence. He knew what it meant to rise to a challenge, to cling to one’s principles and hold fast in the face of long odds.

His voice, and the voices of so many others, speaks to us from the past with wisdom forged in the fires of experience.

Our world is not engulfed in flames as it was in much of Churchill’s time. The challenges we face are not the same as those our parents’ and grandparents’ generations grappled with.

But just as their world needed courage and self-sacrifice, so does ours today. You don’t have to look far in our culture to see that need.

Over the last few years, I have spent a considerable amount of time with men and women in our law enforcement community. Police officers, sheriff deputies, highway patrol troopers, game wardens, investigators, corrections and detention officers, federal and tribal law enforcement, 911 dispatchers, motor carrier officers, probation and parole officers. I have administered oaths of office and codes of conduct, spent time with them in the field, and worked with them on cases and legislative and policy issues. I’ve even qualified with them on the firing range. I have gotten to know some of them personally, met their families, and talked with them about the joys and sorrows of the job. And, unfortunately, I’ve had to console the families and colleagues of two officers who lost their lives in the line of duty during my time as Attorney General: Cascade County Deputy Joseph Dunn, and Broadwater County Deputy Mason Moore. May they rest in peace.

In all of this, I struggle to find words to adequately describe my admiration for the men and women of Montana’s law enforcement community. I see in them the courage and self-sacrifice that we so desperately need today. At their best, I see in them the heroes and role models and heroes we need today.

So often, our young people search for these things in vain. They look to fictional characters, imaginary places and situations.

Coarsened by tragedy and hardship, wounded by those who were supposed to care for them, or scandalized by those who fail to live up to the ideals of their vocation, some even develop a cynical view of heroism, concluding it simply isn’t real or even possible in today’s world.

But we know that isn’t true. As far as I’m concerned, we need look no further than Montana’s law enforcement professionals at their best. Real heroism is found not just when they rise to meet extraordinary challenges and events, but also in the ordinary acts of service and bravery that often go unnoticed. It’s found in the courage they muster to face danger alone when backup is 20, 30, or 60 minutes away. It’s found in the determination and persistence that carries them through difficulties most of us will never experience.

Their acts of heroism are often hidden in the quiet gestures they perform on the job.
It’s the kindness shown to a scared child who was abused or caught in the middle of feuding parents. It’s helping a stranded driver change a flat tire at 11pm on a dark, lonely stretch of highway.

It’s reassuring the 911 caller that help is on the way.

It’s the comfort that residents and business owners take when they see a proactive law enforcement presence in their areas regularly.

It’s the satisfaction that law-abiding hunters and anglers take when they know a game warden is in the area and protecting an important natural resource.

Yet we must have no illusions about the law enforcement profession. The work, the sacrifices, and the enormous responsibilities shouldered can take a profound toll on the officer.

Most of us work in an office or other relatively safe environment. Our work is predictable, or at least within a range of anticipated or expected situations. Our lives aren’t in jeopardy.

Most of us don’t risk getting shot at or assaulted.
Most of us don’t have to de-escalate potentially deadly scenarios.

Most of us don’t come into contact with mentally ill people intent upon using the encounter as a means of suicide.

Our law enforcement professionals face these and other dangers every day. They are on the front lines, and the threats can appear from out of nowhere, in a split second. They take big risks, work long hours under stressful conditions, and aren’t paid nearly what they deserve.

That’s not the stuff of fiction or myth – that’s real heroism, courage, and self-sacrifice. It’s the kind of story all of us should be telling our children and grandchildren, because they need to know there are men and women among us who risk their lives for the sake of others.

We must never forget that real heroism is also found in the families of law enforcement professionals, because they, too, sacrifice much for the safety of Montanans.

Often times, law enforcement officers have to deal with the worst aspects of human nature. They witness firsthand the horrible things people are capable of doing to one another. When their day is over, they’re expected to go home and not take the nasty stuff with them.

Their families endure long hours of absence and they worry about the safety of their loved one. When I kiss my wife goodbye in the morning and head to work, most likely she doesn’t worry about something bad happening to me that day. She doesn’t grapple with a nagging fear that I might not come home. But the families of law enforcement officers do worry.

Unpredictable duty shifts and prolonged absence from home can take them away from their baby’s first words or first steps, their son’s ballgame, their daughter’s dance recital, and much more. They work to support a family, and the tragic irony of life is that their job takes them away from the very reason they work so hard. But they make that sacrifice because they have answered a noble calling to serve their fellow Montanans, to help them, and to keep them safe from dangers they often don’t even realize are out there.

I have known, and perhaps you have as well, of some law enforcement professionals whose careers took a steep toll on their personal and family lives. We must support them, pray for them, and walk with them.

But I have known far more who stick it out every day and quietly endure the hardships that come with the job. They hold their families together and make it work. When they clock out at the end of their shift, they manage to leave the stress and bad stuff at work and go home to be a loving spouse, parent, friend, neighbor.

I believe law enforcement professionals have one of the hardest jobs out there, but I also believe with all my heart that they are Montana’s greatest heroes.

Earlier I mentioned decorating 10 highway patrol troopers and sheriff deputies for their service in pursuing and apprehending a dangerous criminal.

When the incident concluded and the immediate aftermath passed, I presume those officers went their separate ways and drove home at some point. On their way, they passed other drivers on the road. Maybe they stopped at the grocery store to grab some things for their family, stopped to watch their kids’ basketball game, or pulled into the gas station to fill up. In other words, they continued going about the ordinary tasks of life.

I would also presume that none of the people with whom those officers interacted had any idea what had happened that day. They had no idea the officer they just saw had pursued and apprehended a well-armed criminal who lobbed pipe bombs at them. They had no idea that the officers did this without a single loss of life, that the suspect had been captured alive so that justice could be served. True courage and valor do not seek reward or recognition.

The people with whom our law enforcement professionals interact in their day-to-day duties probably don’t thank them very often, but we all should. Moreover, we should thank their families and friends for standing by our professionals while they serve our communities faithfully.

To the officers we are honoring this evening, I thank you and salute you.

As you go about your daily duties, be prepared for the moment that will test your character, your strength, your resolve, and your training. When the moment comes – that figurative tap on the shoulder to which Churchill referred – lean in and hold fast.

My friends, thank you again for the invitation to share this special evening with you. God bless you, and God bless the men and women of our law enforcement agencies.