Morgan County law enforcement officer making big impact
By Greg Olsen
The life of a law enforcement officer — even in a rural Illinois county — is often as varied and changing as the weather that rolls across the prairie.
Take for instance the life of Morgan County Deputy Sheriff Derek Suttles, who once saved a woman’s life and made a significant seizure of drugs, both within a few hours and a few miles apart.
“When we come to work, we, as law enforcement officers, never know what we may encounter,” Suttles said. “The woman I rescued a few years ago was trapped in a burning car on (Interstate) 72.”
And later that day, Suttles saw a suspicious man at a gas station near I-72.
“Once the driver noticed me in a marked patrol car, his behavior seemed to be nervous and evasive,” said Suttles, whose curiosity led him to ask the man why he was nervous.
And the skill of a drug-sniffing police dog led to a big find in the man’s truck.
A now-former South Jacksonville police officer, Andrew Morgan, took the dog around the truck and it “quickly alerted to the presence of drugs,” Suttles said.
The drugs were in the form of 208 pounds of marijuana, according to Suttles.
“It’s nice to know that we were able to take a sizable amount of drugs off the street and out of the hands of a criminal organization,” Suttles said.
He explained that the black market cannabis, such as that found in that 2019 seizure, was not regulated and could have contained such things as fentanyl, or various other chemicals.
In the past 10 years, Suttles, who often patrols I-72 in Morgan County, has been involved in many significant seizures of contraband, including 4,400 pounds of marijuana, 31 pounds of cocaine, 11 pounds of methamphetamine, 15 pounds of heroin, and more than $600,000 in cash that was linked to criminal organizations across the United States.
During contraband seizures, Suttles works with several Illinois State Police officers, including a few who live in Morgan County, to identify people “involved in criminal activity.”
Morgan County Chief Deputy Sheriff Jamie Jackson said that Suttles, who is a 17-year veteran law enforcement officer, has received extensive training in criminal patrol.
“Derek’s arrests and seizures, along with all of our deputies’ efforts, impact public safety, not only in Morgan County but throughout Illinois and other communities across the country,” Jackson said. “We feel that the best way to make a positive impact in our community is by coordinating our efforts with other law enforcement agencies.
“When we get information pertaining to criminal activity in other parts of the state or the country, we share that information with other (law enforcement) agencies,” Jackson said.
One of the ways the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department does that is through its partnerships with agencies such as the Central Illinois Enforcement Group (CIEG), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the FBI, as well as other sheriff’s departments and local police departments in Central Illinois.
Jackson is quick praise not only Suttles but the entire Morgan County Sheriff’s Department for its work in serving and protecting the county’s residents.
“I’ve been here for four years with Sheriff Mike Carmody, and what I appreciate the most is how hard working all of our staff is here, and Derek is a great example of that.”
For his hard work, Suttles received the Jacksonville Citizens Police Academy Association Officer of the Year Award in 2018 and the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police’s Lifesaving Award in 2019.
During this past week on Saturday, the Fraternal Order of Police awarded Suttles, and Jacksonville Police Department Patrolman Andrew Haas with a lifesaving award for the accident involving the unresponsive driver. Suttles also received the Meritorious Service Award for his work with the drug enforcement.
Suttles and his wife reside in Jacksonville with their two sons.