By John Davis, Oxford Citizen
There wasn’t a lot of time spent behind the podium for Ray Sockwell Jr. Attention is not something he craves. <>
But when you’re named Officer of the Year for the Lafayette County Law Enforcement Officers Association, a little time in the spotlight is deserved, and expected.
Sockwell was very thankful to earn the award given out annually by his fellow officers at the yearly banquet. The investigator with the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department has made law enforcement his life as opposed to his profession. He said that he had no idea that he had been nominated by Scott Mills, the chief deputy with the department.
“My wife is not here, my parents, only my son is here,” said Sockwell when asked if had an idea that he would be winning the award. “I was totally surprised. It’s always nice to be recognized, but I’m no different than any other officer that’s out here. I’m just a little older and I’ve been fortunate to have a few more opportunities. I feel fortunate, and blessed.”
Thursday’s banquet revolved around unity and support for one another. Charlie Spillers, a retired law enforcement agent who had 42 years of experience, stressed integrity, courage and compassion during his time behind the podium serving as the guest speaker. Being a member of law enforcement, in a town and county like Oxford and Lafayette, is a big deal because of the support.
There are many agencies that don’t get the support like they do here locally, Sockwell said.
“(Spillers) was spot on with what he said, that we are truly fortunate to have the type of community that is so supportive of law enforcement,” Sockwell said. “You have that here probably moreso than other places. We all know each other’s wives and kids. A lot of times you will see the people that you hang around are other cops. It’s just a real tight knit community. I feel truly fortunate to work here.”
Jeff Davis, the outgoing president of the association, said it was always great to get everyone together.
“It’s good to get together like Charlie said instead of at funerals and support each other. It’s a great community of law enforcement officers and I hope the community realizes how lucky they are to have the law enforcement we have in this community,” said Davis, who worked 22 years with the U.S. Marshall’s service. “I thought Charlie’s speech was inspirational. It hit home with integrity and courage, the reasons these guys are cops and the reason that these guys are still in law enforcement.”
Spillers, who has just written a new book called “Confessions of an Undercover Agent,” cited several stories about unity and supporting fellow officers. Spillers, an ex Marine, worked in Baton Rouge, Louisiana as an undercover agent as well as with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics.
There were two high school students who were honored during the banquet. Malia Carothers of Lafayette High School won the Youth Character award. She was recommended for the award by Kim Maples of the LHS counseling center. Mario Weekly of the Oxford Police Department nominated Lydia Holland as the Student of the Year for the OPDC.
Joe Maples won Support Personnel of the Year. He was nominated by Captain Timmy Pruitt of the sheriff’s department. Maples has riding as a reserve deputy for eight years.