'Your profession is noble.' Stark County honors law enforcement officers
PLAIN TWP. − Ohio Attorney General David Yost told a gathering of Stark County law enforcement officials Wednesday that they are the "fundamental building blocks of society."
Speaking at the Exchange Club of Canton-Stark County's annual Crime Prevention Breakfast, Yost acknowledged that the profession has come under attack the past three years because the acts of a few have "tainted" all officers. But he said law enforcement is helping to fix problems.
"We value you," he said. "Your profession is noble."
Nearly 200 people, one of the largest crowds in recent history, were welcomed by Exchange Club President William Gardiner at First Christian Church. Area law enforcement and a citizen of the year were honored.
The attorney general said his office is working on multiple initiatives to restore public confidence in law enforcement. They include more state funding for departments to send officers to the Ohio Peace Officer Training headquarters west of Columbus, providing online and regional training options, and operating a cold case unit.
Yost said he doesn't blame anyone who left law enforcement but, by staying, officers have demonstrated their mettle.
Crime Prevention Citizen of the Year
Levi Grimm was awarded the Robert D. Horowitz Crime Prevention Citizen of the Year award.
He was heading home on Jan. 18 when he saw a Canton officer struggling with a suspect, said James Knight, secretary of the Exchange Club. Grimm helped pull the man off the female officer and waited with her until other officers arrived.
"Due to his actions in assisting the officer, looking out for her safety, really the both of them working together, matters did not get worse and they were quickly resolved," Knight said.
Grimm accepted the award from Stark County Prosecutor Kyle Stone and said his actions were just "something that all of you guys in uniform do every day."
Stark County Deputy of the Year
Jeffrey McCollister was honored as Stark County Deputy of the Year.
The Canton South High School graduate was a special deputy in Summit County until he was hired in June 2005 by the Stark County Sheriff's Office. Knight said McCollister was described as a "proactive deputy" who has recovered drugs, guns, stolen vehicles and wanted suspects while on patrol.
McCollister was trained in crisis intervention in 2009 and has received numerous prior awards.
"Jeff was chosen by his peers for his dedication and hard work he shows not only to the Sheriff's Office but also Stark County," Knight said.
McCollister thanked those who nominated him.
"It's truly an honor and a privilege to work for such a great agency," he said.
Community Police Officer of the Year
Stark County sheriff's deputy Fred Leight was named the Community Police Officer of the Year for his efforts to prevent distracted driving.
Leight's future son-in-law was killed by a distracted driver in 2016. The deputy joined the national Beat the Heat organization, which raises awareness about dangerous driving, the following year.
In 2021, Leight formed Ohio Blue Line Motorsports to promote safe driving with educational programs and community activities.
"I can raise awareness, but together we can make a difference," he said after accepting the award.
Canton City Police Officer of the Year
Detective Michael Herrera was honored as Canton City Police Officer of the Year.
Since he was hired in 2014, Herrera has worked in the patrol division, gang intelligence unit and currently works as the department's gang intelligence officer for the investigative division.
"Detective Herrera's knowledge in regards to Canton's violent street gangs is second to none, and he is sought by law enforcement agencies all over Stark County for assistance in recognizing threats posed by violent groups within their specific jurisdictions," Knight said.
In 2022, Herrera investigated 55 felony criminal cases that often involved guns and gang violence. He's also assisted other detectives with investigating shootings in the city.
Herrera said he has done his best with the opportunity he was given by Chief John Gabbard but "didn't do it alone," thanking his coworkers.
Reach Kelly at 330-580-8323 or email@example.comOn Twitter: @kbyerREP
This article originally appeared on The Repository: Exchange Club honors Stark County law enforcement officers