On Feb. 27, Rossville Exchange Club recognized two Walker County deputies for their exemplary service by presenting each with a 2020 Officer of the Year plaque.
February is Law Enforcement Month for the Exchange. On the last three Thursdays of each February, REC hosts a lunch for all law enforcement officers of Walker, Catoosa and Dade counties, as well as the FBI, GBI and the state Parole Board.
In addition to good food, the lunches feature special guest speakers, says REC member Don Martin, who has been with the 50-year-old organization since 1993 and has served as its president four times. Martin currently serves as REC Law Enforcement Month chairman.
“We usually have 40-50 officers at the first two lunches and around 80 at the last one when we present the award,” says Martin. “This is one of the highlights of the year for us.”
Nominees for Officer of the Year are chosen by the heads of their agencies, but the final decision, says Martin, is made by one person who is not associated with REC and does not live in the state of Georgia.
This year, the award was won by two officers instead of the usual one: Sgt. Thomas Agredano and Deputy Leslie Coppack.
Agredano and Coppack were nominated by Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson who was a recipient of the award in 1990 for his leadership when he was working with the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Task Force. “It’s one of the first awards I ever received,” he says, “and still one of the most meaningful.”
Wilson says he nominated Agredano and Coppack for their heroism in responding to a call about a suspect who was being disruptive and was threatening to harm himself. Agredano was first on the scene. Gunfire was exchanged. A bullet from the suspect’s gun ricocheted off something and hit Agredano in the leg.
When Coppack arrived on the scene, says Wilson, she provided cover for Agredano so he could reach safety.
“Things can change quickly in a situation like that,” Wilson says. “It’s unpredictable. The deputies were under fire but remained calm and kept dispatchers and fellow officers informed, even while they were in danger. They exemplified the character of well-trained officers under fire.”
At first, says Wilson, doctors chose to leave the bullet in Agredano’s leg, but the injury became infected and the bullet was removed. Agredano has fully recovered.
The special speaker for the lunch and awards ceremony that was held at the Rossville Civic Center was Walker County Sole Commissioner Shannon Whitfield, who also made the presentation of the plaques.
Martin says that in addition to the Rossville Exchange Club’s mission to recognize and honor law enforcement officers, the club is dedicated to helping the community in many ways.
An annual golf tournament benefits The Family Crisis Center in LaFayette. REC provides school supplies for children in need of them. Martin says one program he especially likes is REC’s annual Christmas event featuring a magician and gifts for special needs children. “It’s very gratifying,” he says.
“The Exchange Club is a good organization,” says Martin. “We help people who are down on their luck and that is satisfying.”