By Lynn Colburn
The Jacksonville Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association (CPAA) sponsored the 2017 Central Illinois Policeman’s Ball on Saturday, November 18, at Hamilton’s. The evening was a night to honor the officers and citizens who support and protect our Central Illinois communities.
The night began with a social hour, followed by the Boy Scouts presentation of the American Flag and Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. Laura Benz then sang a beautiful acapella rendition of the National Anthem. After that, guests enjoyed a wonderful dinner catered by Hamilton’s.
CPAA President Tom Cisne served as master of ceremonies for the evening. Along with his evening duties, Cisne and his wife, Judy, were celebrating their anniversary. The evening began with the reading of the names of the many policeman and women who have fallen this year in the line of duty around the country.
Afterwards, Cisne introduced the guest speaker, Connor Brewer of Rochester. Brewer gave an inspirational speech. A Millikin University offensive lineman, Connor Brewer gained national attention in October 2016 when stood by himself on the field during “The Star-Spangled Banner” and ran back to the locker room to join the rest of his team after it ended. The team voted to remain in the locker room during the national anthem after several players’ decisions to kneel during the song drew backlash. All this took place in the backdrop of the 2016 Presidential elections and the protest movement started by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick of kneeling during the anthem to protest racial injustice in America.
Brewer explained to the group he was not used to public speaking. He said he hadn’t originally planned to stand on the sidelines after the team leadership had decided to remain in the locker room; however, he said he felt it was the right thing to do. He explained that doing what he felt was the right thing was difficult, and he didn’t want to cause friction with his teammates, but that the profound influence of his grandfathers, who were both veterans, gave him the courage to follow his heart and do what he felt was right. So, when the rest of this team went to the locker room after warm-ups, he went to the sidelines, took off his helmet, stood straight and tall during the national anthem, and then rejoined his teammates. He didn’t do it for notoriety or attention, although he ended up with plenty of both.
Brewer said that in the same way that the Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association help to learn and communicate what police, firefighters, first responders and service personnel go through every day, he had researched and thought about the national anthem and its meaning. He felt that the meaning of the many sacrifices of servicemen and women and those who have sacrificed their blood, sweat, and tears for our benefit, like his grandfathers, was one he had to honor. It was what was right. He explained he visits his grandfathers as he can these days, while showing slides of their graves in a military cemetery. He said they are what gives him the courage to continue to do what’s right.
Tom Cisne thanked Brewer for his wise words and for speaking to the group. He then thanked Senator Sam McCann who was in the audience for his support of the group. Cisne called on Loren Hamilton to present the evening’s awards.
The first award was the Community Service Award, which is presented to a sworn officer who has volunteered his or her time outside of law enforcement to help make our community a better place for all. The 2017 recipient was Jacksonville Police Department (JPD) Sergeant Olivia Mefford. She and her husband have hosed 12 foreign exchange students at their home, she has donated her time and efforts to many organizations including the Juvenile Justice Council, Dream Center Foundation and has chaired mother’s volleyball.
The Community Service Award is awarded to a civilian or civilian organization that volunteers their time to make our community a safer place to live. This award was given to both an organization and an individual this year. West Central Mass Transit District (WCMTD) Executive Director Jean Jumper accepted the award on its behalf. The WCMTD who has assisted the police in transferring groups of people when the police requested assistance and have assisted the community by providing a service that has kept many safe during late night hours in many locations and circumstances.
The individual Community Service Award went to Butch Wood and was nominated by Jacksonville Police Chief Adam Mefford. Mefford noted Wood’s generosity and assistance with programs such as Boots on the Ground, where he supplied 300 ice cream cones that officers were able to hand out to kids; and again, supplying ice cream for Cones with a Cop night. In addition, Wood donated the proceeds from a burgoo for the Teen Police Academy. Tom Cisne presented the award to Butch Wood with thanks from the department and the community.
The final award was the Officer of the Year presented to Jerseyville Police Department Officer Nathan Miller. The award is presented to a sworn officer that has gone above and beyond the call of duty for our community. Officer Miller had given chase during duty and been shot several times during the pursuit. He will be coming back to duty soon after a long recovery from his wounds.
After awards were completed, Cisne thanked all the sponsors of the evening and invited the group enjoy cake for dessert, danced to live music and participated in a silent auction. All proceeds from the event with continue to support the police department through programs supported by the CPAA such as K-9 supplies, a fight suit, computer programs, digital cameras and much more.