A Lawrenceville police officer who cared for a homeless man in her off-duty time, practically adopting him in the process.
Gwinnett firefighters who rescued a group of teenagers stranded on an old dam in the middle of the raging Alcovy River.
A Gwinnett County Public Schools officer who put herself in harm’s way to disarm a student who had just stabbed a teacher at Trickum Middle School.
A rehabilitation program at the Gwinnett County jail designed to partner inmates with dogs and cats to care for.
These are the efforts that public safety officers in Gwinnett County were recognized for during the fourth annual Red, Blue and You event at the Buford Arena on Thursday. The annual tribute to first responders drew a few hundred attendees who got to hear stories that Red, Blue and You organizer Raymer Sale said illustrate the positive impact public safety officers have in the community.
“It tells us they are working for our community, they are working in our community (and) they are supporting us in every way possible,” Sale said. “I mean, how can you say they are not supporting (the community) if someone adopts a homeless guy to make his life a little easier, or jumps into a raging river to rescue people, not to mention the school resource officer who disarmed a student with a knife without hurting him or herself or anyone else? Those stories don’t get told enough.”
As has been the case in years past, the Red, Blue and You event focused on addressing stories involving public safety officers in Gwinnett from the past year.
One of them involved Gwinnett School Resource Officer Nicolette McLeod-Pinnock, who serves at Trickum Middle School. Trickum Principal Ryan McQueen recounted the October 2018 incident in which a knife-wielding student first stabbed his teacher and held a classmate at knife point.
McQueen also highlighted McLeod-Pinnock’s response to the incident, including how she was able to disarm the student. And it was just the SRO’s third month at the school.
“In that moment, Officer McLeod responded to a situation in a classroom with no knowledge of what was happening,” McQueen said. “But, when she responded to that classroom, drawing on her experience and her training and her intuition, she was able to deescalate a very dangerous situation where a teacher had already been injured.”
Similarly, Gwinnett County firefighters were highlighted for their bravery in saving teenagers in July. The teens had ventured onto an old stone dam at Freeman’s Mill Park and become stuck there when a rain-swollen Alcovy River suddenly became a raging river.
Firefighters were called in to rescue the kids, with Assistant Fire Chief Fred Cephus saying it took more than 30 firefighters to carry out the rescue.
Video of the rescue was shown at the Red, Blue and You event.
“The quick action and heroic teamwork of the department members resulted in 11 rescues from the river that day,” Cephus said. “Every team member played an important part in the overall success of this operation and the saving of lives that day.”
Meanwhile, Lawrenceville Police Officer Dena Walker Pauly was highlighted for taking a man who was effectively homeless under her wing, ensuring he was cared for and using her free time to clean up his living area.
Capt. Ryan Morgan said Pauly also went to see the man when he went into the hospital earlier this year as his health deteriorated and was at his side when he passed away.
“A lot of us would just brush it off and keep moving, but to Dana’s credit, she didn’t,” Morgan said. “She took on this man to do the right thing.”
There was also a portion of the program set aside to highlight the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office’s Jail Dogs and Jail Cats program, also known as Operation Second Chance.
Chief Deputy Lou Solis said the Jail Dogs program started in 2010, and the Jail Cats program followed in 2013. It has seen 676 dogs, which had been surrendered to Animal Control and later used in the program, go on to be adopted.
“It’s a pretty big program for us,” Solis said.
There was also a recognition of recently retired Gwinnett Police Chief Butch Ayers, who stepped down from his post earlier this month after 35 years with the department, including about five years as chief of police.
Gwinnett Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash presented Ayers with a pen set that had a gold plaque commemorating the former chief’s service on the outside of the box.
“I certainly appreciate it,” Ayers said of the recognition after the event. “Thirty-five years with Gwinnett and five years as chief — it was an honor and a privilege to serve the citizens of Gwinnett.
“It’s been a great career and I’ve seen a lot of changes and I’m looking forward to that next step and seeing what the future brings.”