Meridian Star

February 14, 2013

Officers recognized for efforts

By Brian Livingston / blivingston@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Imagine being on a lonely stretch of Mississippi highway late at night walking up to a vehicle you have just stopped with the real possibility someone with a gun may be inside the car waiting in ambush. Or imagine you are sitting across an interview table from a man who just a couple hours earlier had sexually molested a child. Or imagine yourself in a foot pursuit with a man who just seconds ago robbed and then gunned down a man on the street.

    Could you do any of these jobs?

    Thankfully, there are people who can do these jobs and do them well.

    Wednesday, at the Meridian Exchange Club luncheon, three law enforcement officers were recognized for their dedication and expertise in serving the public with their respective agencies. The Raymond P. Davis Law Enforcement Recognition Awards are presented to three deserving officers who were voted by their peers to be Officers of the Year. The recipients Wednesday were Mississippi Highway Patrol (Troop H) Trooper Joshua Dobbs, Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department Investigator Gypsi Ward, and Meridian Police Department Officer Orlando Clark.

    "Every day we depend on these men and women who wear the uniforms of their respective agencies to keep us safe either on the roads, in our businesses or our homes," said Duffee Williams, the president of the Meridian Exchange Club. "We owe them and their colleagues a great deal."

    Trooper First Class Joshua Dobbs has been with the MHP for six years and is assigned to Neshoba County. He has been recognized for his citations in the areas of seat belt violations, overall enforcement and DUI’s. Interim MHP Capt. Eddie Michael said Dobbs is on track to lead the state again in many of these categories.

    "In addition to his duties on the roadways of Neshoba County, Dobbs has served on special details to New Jersey and just recently to Hattiesburg after the tornado," said Michael.

    "This is a huge honor," Dobbs said. "I got into this career to help people and none of us are really looking for recognition but it is great when it comes your way because it tells you you are doing the right thing."

    Ward has been with the Sheriff’s Department for 14 years. She is assigned to computer crimes, sexual assaults, child abuse, and domestic violence cases. She is involved with outreach groups dealing with her assignments. Sheriff Billy Sollie said Ward has the dirtiest job in the agency having to deal with sex criminals.

    "She has to sit across a table and talk with these people who have just sexually assaulted a child or woman without doing what most of us would do, which is reach across that table and beat the suspect to death," said Sollie. "Her work in this field has been a huge asset to the department."

    Ward said she is thankful to work in a department where there is so much support, especially considering her type of job.

    "I'm honored to have been voted for this award but it is actually shared with those other investigators and deputies I work alongside," Ward said. "We support each other in order to bring justice to the victims and their families."

    In November of last year, MPD Patrolman Orlando Clark was patrolling in the area of 49th Avenue and Fifth Street when he heard a gunshot. Clark responded immediately to the location and saw a man, later identified as 18-year-old James Henderson III, running away from the scene. Clark ran down Henderson and held him until backup units could get on the scene. Sadly, the victim, Guerra Salvador, 38, died as a result of the gunshot wound but Clark's quick actions did apprehend the suspect.

    "I don't know what is next," said Clark, who has been on the MPD force for a little more than a year. "We always carry a huge responsibility with us whenever we put on this uniform but being recognized in this way puts even more on me. I think I can handle it, though."

    "These awards serve as a magnifying glass, which enables the public to see the individuals behind the uniforms and badges and to generate a better public understanding of the sacrifices they make," said Williams.

    Made up of more than 700 clubs, and more than 22,000 members throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, Exchange, America’s Service Club, is a group of men and women working together to make communities better places to live through programs of service in Americanism, community service, youth activities, and its national project, the prevention of child abuse.