AUSTIN - Eight Ellis County-based law enforcement officials were honored for valor during a special ceremony last Wednesday at the state Capitol.

Sponsored by CLEAT, the eight were among 20 recipients of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education achievement awards.

Of those awards, 15 were for valor, three were for professional achievement and two were for public service.

“This ceremony was a testament to these officers’ courage and dedication,” said state Rep. Jim Pitts, who attended the ceremony. “They place themselves in danger on a daily basis, and it was nice to see their efforts rewarded. I am especially proud that out of the 20 officers honored, eight of them call Ellis and Hill County home.”

State Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee, gave the keynote address and stressed his support of law enforcement.

Whitmire talked of his friendships with officers - and of the tragic loss of one of those friends in the line of duty.

The stories of the honorees were impressive, Whitmire said, saying he would continue his efforts to ensure law enforcement in the state is provided what it needs.

“We need to rededicate ourselves to law enforcement,” he said. “We need to give them the tools they need and not balance our budgets on the backs of our officers.”

The 20 officers honored were selected from 76 nominees in the categories of valor, professional achievement and public service.

An independent panel of public officials, individuals and officers narrows nominees to 20, which are confirmed by the TCLEOSE commission.

Joe Stivers, a public member of the TCLEOSE commission, said, “It’s especially pleasing for me when we’re able to honor these law enforcement professionals, these young men and women who have been able to excel in their careers.

“In a split second, some of these people have to make life and death decisions, but they are trained to do so,” Stivers said. “I like to think that if I have even a little bit to do with that training, it’s a satisfying feeling.”

Each officer was recognized individually onstage and was presented with the TCLEOSE award, a proclamation from the governor and other mementos. As each officer was honored, the story of why he or she was being recognized was read.

The Ellis County-based officers who were honored included:

Glenn Heights Police Department officer Keith A. Moore - award of valor for his efforts to save a woman from a burning house trailer March 23, 2006. Midlothian Police Department officers Dustin Compton, Cody McKinney and Sgt. Brian Woolery - awards of valor for their heroism exhibited in the line of fire during a standoff with a gunman Aug. 20, 2006. Department of Public Safety troopers Terry Eaton, Vance Griffin, Rick Smith and Bill Werkmeister - awards of valor for their heroism exhibited in the line of fire during a standoff with a gunman Aug. 20, 2006.

“The officers and troopers recognized today showed true, selfless courage,” said state Sen. Kip Averitt, whose district includes Ellis County. “Law enforcement is a dangerous profession, and I am grateful that these men were willing to put their lives on the line to protect our community.”

“These awards of heroism are for someone who acts extraordinary in extraordinary situations,” TCLEOSE executive director Tim Braaten said.

E-mail JoAnn at editor@waxahachiedailylight.com