Houston honors top law enforcement officers

WARNER ROBINS — Officers of the Year for each of the Houston County law enforcement agencies, including those on Robins Air Force Base, were honored Thursday.

The officers, chosen by the agencies, are recognized annually by the Warner Robins Noon Optimist Club at a luncheon as part of the service club’s Respect for Law program, said Houston County Chief Assistant District Attorney Jason Ashford, an Optimist member.

“It’s great to be able to recognize people for doing a great job,” Ashford said.

The top cops:

Ÿ Cpl. Phillip Pritchett joined Centerville police as a patrol officer in March 2007. He serves as a shift supervisor in the patrol division. Pritchett was credited with the revision of the field training program manual for the Centerville Police Department. He started his law enforcement career with Hawkinsville police in 2003.

Centerville Police Chief Anthony B. Cooper lauded Pritchett as an asset to the police force. Described as dedicated and loyal, Pritchett sets the example for others to follow, the chief said.

Ÿ Tech Sgt. Jarrod Tracht of the 78th Security Forces at Robins and his nine member staff is responsible for training 6,000 base personnel annually. He was credited with coordinating a $4.5 million firing range upgrade. He is co-founder of the Middle Georgia SWAT competition that helped raise funds for charity and serves as the squadron’s Booster Club president.

Maj. Russell Stilling, chief of the security forces, praised Tracht for his attention to detail, motivation and leadership ability.

Ÿ Houston County sheriff’s Sgt. Brian Blanton moved quickly up the ranks from patrol to the warrants division to sergeant in charge of training for the jail. He also serves on the sheriff’s response team, a special tactical unit. He came to the sheriff’s office from the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office in September 1997.

Houston County sheriff’s Capt. Alan Everidge noted that Blanton has an ability to talk with people that has served him well from developing informants when transporting inmates to finding people when serving arrest warrants.

“He’s an all around good person, good officer and I’m proud to call him my friend,” Everidge said.

Ÿ Warner Robins police Lt. Bryan Stewart, a 12-year veteran of the police department, serves as a patrol lieutenant of the two night patrol squads. He’s previously served at the sheriff’s departments in Houston and Dooly counties. Recognized for serving as a mentor to younger officers, Stewart also leads the force’s SWAT team.

Warner Robins Police Chief Brett Evans noted that Stewart stepped up as a resourceful leader within the department. The chief lauded Stewart as among those who come to him with a solution before he tells him the problem.

Ÿ School Resource Officer Tom Daly came to the Perry Police Department a little more than a year ago with experience at the Houston County Sheriff’s Office, Annapolis, Md., Police Department, Federal Protective Services and the Central Intelligence Agency.

With a heart for service, Daly was welcomed by Perry Police Chief George Potter, who lauded him for his rapport with students and faculty.

Daly’s communication skills were credited for information received from two confidential informants about the May 4 burglary of a classroom at Perry High School that led to arrests of the suspected burglars. Potter noted that Daly is the kind of person he can rely on.

In addition to Officer of the Year recognitions, 911 operator Jami Smither, who is a Houston County sheriff’s communications deputy, was singled out for her performance Feb. 6 when she handled a call from a person inside a Waffle House regarding a fight.

The incident escalated. An armed gunman pointing into a crowd of about 50 people in the parking lot was shot to death by two Warner Robins police officers.

An internal police investigation found that the use of deadly force was justified because of imminent danger to the crowd. A Houston County grand jury concurred with those findings. Also, the GBI found that the Warner Robins police criminal investigative report substantiated the use of deadly force.

Smither was able to get the person inside the Waffle House at 1287 S. Houston Lake Road to tell her what was going on so arriving officers could have critical information, Ashford said.

Also, the Officer of the Year for the 116th Security Forces at Robins is expected to be recognized at a later date because of deployment.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 923-3109, extension 243.