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American Legion names Duluth officer top cop

DULUTH - It's been said that if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.

For years Lt. Bill Stevens of the Duluth Police Department has taken on enough responsibilities for two or three people, and he continues to impress others with his achievements.

The American Legion of Georgia recognized Stevens June 24 as the 2006 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year at its annual convention in Macon. Stevens received the same award for the entire southern region of American Legion last year, and he was also a finalist for the national award.

Stevens was nominated by American Legion Chattahoochee Post 251 in Duluth. Judging for the award was based on contributions to community, civic duty and support and dedication to active-duty American troops.

Since retiring from the Gwinnett County Fire Department about a year ago - where he was a full-time fireman in addition to his full-time job supervising the Community Oriented Police Services (C.O.P.S.) division of the Duluth Police Department - Stevens has remained busy.

Stevens started a small nonprofit called Operation One Voice to raise money for families of fallen special operations soldiers by selling commemorative coins. Last year, the organization raised $65,000 to meet the educational needs of the children of those soldiers.

Thom Mash, a member of the American Legion Chattahoochee Post 251, said state officials were particularly impressed with Operation One Voice.

"That is very big with the veterans or veterans organizations as far as taking care of the children of fallen heroes," Mash said. "So many families of service men and women have been affected. He is in constant contact with active-duty military personnel."

As if that weren't enough, Stevens conceived Operation Drive Smart in 1999, a state-funded drivers education program for teenagers hosted by the Duluth Police Department. Last year, about 100,000 students from 15 high schools across the state participated in the program, which boasts four driving simulators.

Earlier this year, Stevens was named Public Safety Person of the Year at the first annual Gwinnett County Valor Awards for his work with Operation One Voice.

Stevens said his American Legion award plaques will soon be displayed on the wall in his office, but he declined to accept all the praise for his accomplishments.

"I want to remind everybody that it's a team effort," Stevens said Monday. "It takes more than one person to win an award like this."