Police Officer of the Year Award is more than a nice thing to do

By the Editorial Board

Fifty years is a long time for any entity to sustain an award, to keep it meaningful to the community as well as recipients. The Rotary Club of Myrtle Beach on Monday presented its Joe McGarry Memorial Police Officer of the Year Award and the 50th award perhaps has more significance than ever.

It’s difficult to recall a time when it was more important to honor and recognize police officers for their ongoing, 24-7 efforts to keep a community safe for everyone. The very name of the award reminds us that police officers everywhere put their lives on the line every day. Officer Joe McGarry was killed by a man he was questioning on Dec. 29, 2002. His name was added to the Police Officer of the Year Award, first presented by the Rotary Club in 1967.

Patrolman First Class Shon McCluskey received the Officer of the Year award on Monday. Others nominated, and recognized at the ceremony, are PFC Henry Bresadoa; PFC Michael Kevin Dame (retired); PFC Keith Deverell; PFC Michael Householder; Corporal Paul Morrell; PFC Paul Sweeney.

Officers Deverell and McCluskey also were among seven nominated for the Lifetime Achievement Award, added for this year because of the 50th anniversary of the recognition. Sgt. Bryan Murphy, a 15-year veteran of the department and a 24-year law enforcement professional, received the one-time award. Others nominated and recognized are Sgt. Lester Cook; Corporal Tommy Hunt; PFC Stephanie James; Corporal Troy Spivey.

Following the ceremony, both Murphy and McCluskey talked about how they are part of a team. “We all have to be out there together and I’ve got a great group of guys that have my back ... ,” McCluskey said. “It’s a great honor just to be nominated, but then to actually win it is awesome,” Murphy said.

Rigby Wilson, a former chairman of the club’s officer of the year selection committee, talked about the selection process. Nominations are by other officers. “Deciding who gets the award is an extremely tough decision because they all have merits and many times it’s someone who’s just done a very, very good job with something and has flown under the radar.”

Wilson, general manager of WFXB-TV, is the Rotary Club’s immediate past president and was chairman of the selection committee for four years. Mark Webster, publisher of The Sun News, became chairman in 2015. Rotarians such as Gary Loftus, a member of Horry County Council, and Mayur Jarem, a businessman, have served on the committee for many years.

“Rotary does a lot of good,” Wilson said, alluding to the good works of Rotary clubs along the Grand Strand and beyond. “This is one of the most significant projects of the Rotary Club of Myrtle Beach.” The club, chartered in 1946, is the oldest in the area and was rightly recognized by a S.C. House resolution for its 70 years of service. Rotary is the oldest of the service clubs, founded in Chicago in 1905 by Paul Harris. Worldwide, 1.22 million men and women are members of more than 34,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries.

As Rigby Wilson notes, when the Police Officer of the Year award began, “It was a nice thing to do. Now it’s the right thing to do.” Recognizing the work of police officers with similar awards would be terrific projects for other area service clubs.

70 years of `Service Above Self’; 50th Officer of Year Award

1946 | Rotary Club of Myrtle Beach chartered in October by Rotary International

1967 | First Police Officer of the Year Award to officer of the Myrtle Beach Police Department

2003 | Joe McGarry Memorial Police Officer of the Year, in honor of officer killed in line of duty Dec. 29, 2002

2016 | 50th award presented and one-time Lifetime Achievement Award presented at Ocean Reef Resort, Myrtle Beach; Rotary Club of Myrtle Beach and members recognized for 50 years of award and 70 years of “Service Above Self” to the community

Online | www.myrtlebeachrotary.org