MPD officer recognized by state’s AG
One of Monticello’s finest has now been recognized as one of Arkansas’ finest. Wayne Wesson was named Drew County’s Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer of the Year on Tuesday, joining only 74 other officers around the state in receiving county awards.
Wesson, a 24-year veteran of law enforcement, is a School Resource Officer for the Monticello Police Department assigned to Monticello School District. He received his award from Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge at the 2017 Arkansas Law Enforcement Summit at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock.
“I’m honored to be a part of the greatest law enforcement agency in the state and to have a chief, Eddy Deaton, who gives me the freedom to work in a capacity as an SRO,” Wesson said. “Being an SRO has allowed me to expand on training and experience that I can use to better serve my district and community.
“I am honored to be a Monticello Police Officer and privileged to work with a fine group of professionals that truly are family.”
According to the National Association of School Resource Officers website (nasro.org), an SRO “by federal definition, is a career law enforcement officer with sworn authority who is deployed by an employing police department or agency in a community-oriented policing assignment to work in collaboration with one or more schools.
“The goals of well-founded SRO programs include providing safe learning environments in our nation’s schools, providing valuable resources to school staff members, fostering positive relationships with youth, developing strategies to resolve problems affecting youth and protecting all students, so that they can reach their fullest potentials.
“NASRO considers it a best practice to use a ‘triad concept’ to define the three main roles of school resource officers: educator (i.e. guest lecturer), informal counselor/mentor and law enforcement officer.”
Deaton said he was obviously proud one of his officers was chosen for this prestigious award.
“I would like to thank the Criminal Justice Institute for nominating Officer Wayne Wesson for Drew County Officer of the Year,” the chief noted. “Wayne has been our school resource officer for several years and played a key role in implementing the Smart911 panic system in the school districts.”
Wesson began his law enforcement career in 1994 working for the Warren Police Department. After a time, he moved to the Bradley County Sheriff’s Department, where he was the chief deputy for several years.
In 2005, the Hamburg native began working for the U.S. Department of Defense at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala., where he stayed for 15 years before moving home to Southeast Arkansas. He will celebrate his fifth year with the MPD in February 2018.
Wesson has been an SRO almost as long as he has been in Monticello, since Aug. 13, 2013. He is not an employee of MSD.
“I work accidents, thefts, domestics or whatever else may come up,” Wesson explained. “The school is my first priority as far as calls but I’m a Monticello police officer first, so if my department needs me, they get first priority.”
The county awards Rutledge handed out Tuesday recognize college or university, municipal, county, federal or state law enforcement officers who go above and beyond. Nominations were accepted from police chiefs, county sheriffs, county judges, mayors, prosecutors and other state law enforcement leaders.
“Arkansas is blessed to have some of the best in the nation serving as law enforcement officers,” Rutledge said at the summit. “We recognize these men and women for their tremendous service to their communities and dedication to going the extra mile to keep their neighbors safe from harm. Congratulations and thank you to all of (Tuesday’s) honorees.”
In addition to Wesson’s award and the other county honorees, Rutledge recognized Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy Billy Packer as Arkansas’ Law Enforcement Officer of the Year and four Regional Officers of the Year—Sergeant Ronald Davidson of the Benton Police Department (Central Region), for his work to confront a masked gunman at a local bank; Sharp County Sheriff Mark Counts (Northeast Region), for his efforts to take down a methamphetamine laboratory; Arkansas State Police Trooper Christopher Aaron (Southeast Region), who helped save the life of an accidental shooting victim in Almyra; and Garland County Undersheriff Jason Lawrence (Southwest Region), who helped save a civilian contractor from exposure to carbon monoxide.
In announcing Packer as this year’s state Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, Rutledge noted on Feb. 19, he was dispatched to a residence regarding an aggravated assault and theft. The suspect, who had recently been released from prison, woke the homeowner by poking a knife in his face and demanding his truck keys.
Once the suspect obtained the keys, he traveled to a second residence where he stole another vehicle. Upon locating the suspect at a third residence, Packer discovered the homeowner was being held hostage and had been severely assaulted. The suspect opened fire on the responding officers and Packer returned fire, resulting in the suspect’s death.
Packer was nominated by Marion County Sheriff Clinton Evans, who said, “Packer not only possibly saved the homeowner’s life but also his fellow officers’ lives and prevented further injuries and crimes.”
Rutledge added: “The courage Deputy Packer showed in the face of great danger to protect other officers and the community is remarkable. The events in Las Vegas have tragically reminded us that our men and women who wear the badge run toward danger when we are running away from it. Deputy Packer exemplifies that courage as do all of our regional winners and each outstanding officer in all of Arkansas’ 75 counties.
“It is my honor to recognize many of our brave members of law enforcement and thank them for their sacrifice.”
Rutledge also presented VALOR tributes to those in the law enforcement community who tragically lost their lives while in the line of duty this past year. These tributes were presented to the families of Drew County Sheriff’s Deputy Timothy Braden, Yell County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Kevin Mainhart, Miller County Sheriff’s Detention Deputy Lisa Mauldin and Newport Police Lieutenant Patrick Weatherford.
Rutledge gave special recognition to Izard County Sheriff Tate Lawrence, who passed away in April.
Other Southeast Arkansas county Officers of the Year included Ashley County (tie): Chief Johnny Oliver, Hamburg Police Department, and Chief Deputy Jim Stephens, Ashley County Sheriff’s Office; Bradley County: Sheriff Herschel Tillman, Bradley County Sheriff’s Office; Chicot County: Sheriff Ronald Nichols, Chicot County Sheriff’s Office; Cleveland County: Sheriff Jack Rodgers, Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office; Dallas County: Corporal Richard Whitley, Arkansas State Police: Desha County: Officer Rose Weathers, Dumas Police Department; and Lincoln County: Officer Jeremy Simmons, Star City Police Department.
Before the luncheon, the summit’s attendees heard from Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill about reform efforts to the criminal justice code and why that matters in the ongoing fight against the drug crisis. Hill is a former Indiana prosecutor and is in his first term as attorney general. Boston Transit Police Officer Dic Donohue, who was grievously injured in April 2013 during a gun battle with two suspects who were later identified as the Boston Marathon bombers, also spoke to attendees.
The summit also included presentations from the AG’s office Legislative Director Cory Cox on changes to Arkansas law impacting the law enforcement community. AT&T Asset Protection Senior Investigator Peggy Fletcher, Arkansas Recycling Association General Counsel Walter Wright Jr. and Special Agent Stephen Svetz spoke about combating metal theft. The summit concluded with a presentation from Deputy Attorney General Will Jones and Special Agent Chris Cone, who discussed forensic tools and techniques to combat cyber criminals.
The Criminal Justice Institute, which nominated Wesson, is a campus of the University of Arkansas System that serves a unique population of non-traditional students—certified law enforcement professionals who are actively employed within our state’s police departments and sheriff’s offices. The Institute is committed to making communities safer by supporting law enforcement professionals through training, education, resources and collaborative partnerships.
Utilizing both classroom-based instruction and practical, hands-on application, CJI provides an educational experience designed to enhance the performance and professionalism of law enforcement in progressive areas of criminal justice, including law enforcement leadership and management, forensic sciences, computer applications, traffic safety, illicit drug investigations and school safety.
CJI has delivered more than 270 courses in 61 locations to more than 9,000 officers and deputies across the state.