The dedication and leadership of several members of the Waxahachie Police Department were honored on Nov. 1. Officer James Taylor was named as the officer of the year, Lt. Mike Lewis was named supervisor of the year, and Sue Clark was named as the civilian employee of the year.

Nominations for these awards can be made by anyone in the department who they feel is the best representative of that honor. A committee of employees from different areas of the department makes the final selection through a vote. The department also awarded several commendations as well

Supervisor of the Year

Lewis said he was humbled to be recognized by his fellow officers as supervisor of the year.

“It was very much an honor to have been nominated and to have been selected. I was surprised,” Lewis said. “I think that it is something that everyone wants to see at some point in their career and I am very glad that I have seen it.”

In his role at the department, Lewis serves as a watch commander on patrol where he oversees half of the patrol division. He also has several administrative duties from overseeing the department’s body camera program to writing grants.

Lewis stated that the department has a lot of good officers. He tries to help where he can to see it continually grow by passing along his experience and knowledge to others.

He notes that becoming a police officer is something that he has wanted to do from a very young age.

“My mom said that I always wanted to be a police officer even when I was four or five. I joined the explorers when I was 14 years old in Lancaster because I knew that I had an interest in law enforcement. After being with the explorers for a couple of years I knew that is what I always wanted to do,” Lewis explained. “There are a lot of people out there you can help. Sometimes people that can’t help themselves or don’t want to help themselves you are able to help those people out. It is rewarding.”

Officer of the Year

The committee selected Taylor as this year’s officer of the year. Taylor joined the department after being medically cleared and declared cancer free from a battle with testicular cancer.

“It is definitely a humbling experience. I would have never thought that I would have got it to be honest with you. I knew that I was nominated because I am part of the awards committee. When they choose who the officer of the year is I have to step out,” Taylor noted. “I didn’t know what to say when they announced my name. I kind of sat there in shock for a moment. I could have thought of plenty of other people that could have gotten that award and would have gotten my vote for that award.”

Taylor shared that his day at the department starts by showing how much he cares for others before heading out on patrol.

“One of the first things that I do is that I walk into dispatch and give them hugs because the dispatchers are on the front lines," Taylor said. "They are the ones that field the calls and try to get as much information as they can. I want them to know from the very start of my day that I love them and definitely respect the job that they do."

From there Taylor goes out on patrol and answers calls.

He stated that it is important to have that connection with the people that they serve. By having that presence out in the community, it reassures the public that they are out there to help them with whatever they need.

Civilian Employee of the Year

Clark has served with the department for the past nine years as a dispatcher and was named this year’s civilian employee of the year. She stated that it is a great feeling and honor that people thought to recognize the three of them.

As a dispatcher, Clark is responsible for dispatching both firefighters and police officers to calls and working with callers to get critical information while keeping them calm on the phone.

“In a high priory call you want to make sure that you get all of the information out there to the guys for their safety as well as the person that you are on the phone with,” Clark said. “You want to keep them on the phone and keep them as calm as possible until officers can get on scene. A major part is to make sure the guys and gals in the department are safe.”

Waxahachie Assistant Police Chief Joe Wiser said Clark is downplaying the importance of the role she has in the department. He stated that is one of the toughest jobs because the dispatcher is the first point of contact in an emergency situation where seconds are critical.

Lewis shared Wiser’s feelings that, “it is very much a multi-tasking job and Sue does it very, very well.”

Commendations

The department also recognized the actions of Officer Brent Dunn who was awarded the department medal of valor. Officer Brandon Gilbert was recognized for assisting Dunn with a commendation. The call took place at a two-story home on Sept. 5 in the 200 block of Bent Creek Dr.

“In that call, we had a female that was mortally wounded by her husband. When Officer Dunn arrived he had to remove her from the scene for safety purposes. Gilbert was able to provide cover for him at his own peril,” Wiser stated. “By our best estimates, he moved her about 160 yards to a safer location. At the whole time, the suspect was nearby.”

The Waxahachie Police SWAT team was later dispatched to the scene. After several hours they found a man inside the home already deceased from what appeared to be a self-inflicted wound. The female victim was transported to Methodist Hospital where she passed away.

Actions taken by Officers Kevin Wright and Derek Behringer on a different call were also honored with a commendation. Officers were dispatched at 8:54 p.m. to the 200 block of Ennis St.

“We had two other officers, Kevin Wright and Derek Behringer, who receive letters of commendations for their efforts in being able to talk someone down who had poured gasoline all over himself and a vehicle. He had an oily rag in the gasoline as a molotov cocktail,” Wiser explained. “They successful to de-escalate the situation down to a point to where we were able to get the person the necessary help.”

*Editor’s note: A full story detailing the actions of Wright, Behringer, Dunn, and Gilbert will be in a future edition of the Daily Light.