Home News Local News ‘Honor the Badge’ recognizes local law enforcement

‘Honor the Badge’ recognizes local law enforcement

From left, Thomas Batista, a fire apparatus operator with the Roswell Fire Department, is honored by Lt. Jared Jennings Wednesday night at The “Honor the Badge” event at the Chaves County Administrative Center. Batista was one of six local law enforcement officers or first responders recognized at the ceremony, which is part of Character Counts! Week. The presentation was put on by Character Counts! Chaves County and sponsored by Pioneer Bank. (Alex Ross Photo)

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Local residents gathered at the Chaves County Administrative Center Wednesday for a ceremony honoring six first responders who exhibit character within their communities.

Three police officers, a detective with the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office, a firefighter with the Roswell Fire Department and a dispatcher with the Pecos Valley Regional Communications Center were all recognized for their contributions and service to the communities they serve.

Each honoree received a plaque, a travel mug, a pen and a gift certificate.

The event was part of Character Counts! Week in Chaves County. The week is recognized by Character Counts! organizations across the country as a way to celebrate students, law enforcement officers and first responders who demonstrate the six pillars of character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.

For some here, the event was also a somber occasion, with the memory of Alvin Jones, a retired New Mexico District Court judge, looming large. Jones, a Roswell resident who was pivotal in launching Character Counts! Chaves County, died in May after he was struck by a vehicle while riding his bike along West Second Street.

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Amy McVay Davis of Character Counts! said the organization was something very dear to Jones.

“He believed firmly in it, he believed firmly in living the foundation of the pillars of character and I think most importantly, he believed in honoring the badge,” Davis said.

Thomas Batista, a fire apparatus operator with the Roswell Fire Department, was among the six honorees at the ceremony. He was nominated by one of his supervisors Lt. Jared Jennings.

Batista consistently exhibits integrity and shows a great deal of care for his patients as well as his fellow firefighters, Jennings said, adding that Batista always works to assist rookie firefighters and is an example of how a positive attitude can go a long way.

“He always has a positive attitude, it is pretty contagious,” Jennings said.

Tim Fuller, executive director of Characters Counts! Chaves County, said that this year also marked the first time that a dispatcher was recognized.

Jennifer Garcia, a dispatcher with the Pecos Valley Regional Communications Center, was honored by her supervisor, Alison Herring, interim director at the Center.

Herring said she and Garcia started working at the Communications Center about 19 years ago. She added that Garcia has constantly shown herself to be a valuable member of the team, especially as the Center is undergoing a great deal of change. Garcia has time and again gone above and beyond to help out.

“I rely on her a lot to help me get things done” Herring said. She added that while Garcia has some “rough edges,” she is very sweet once people get to know her.

Michael Burkowski, a detective with the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office, was also recognized. Lt. Mike Ray with of the Sheriff’s Office addressed the crowd. He honored Burkowski, who has worked in law enforcement for eight years.

He said Burkowski, whom he works with, is “a hard-working individual” who specializes in, among other things, crime scene reconstruction and blood spatter analysis.

“Detective Burkowski always puts the residents of Chaves County and the public he serves above anything else,” Ray said.

Julian Torrez, an officer with the New Mexico State Police, was honored. Tim Fuller read aloud from a statement prepared by someone who was supposed to present the award to Torrez but was unable to make it to the presentation.

Torrez, Fuller said, is an officer trusted by both his fellow officers and the public, who completes his duties with pride and professionalism and is active in the community when it comes to extracurricular activities.

“Officer Torres treats every contact with fairness and due courtesy, no matter the situation,” Fuller said.

Fuller read a statement to the audience honoring Officer Colter Childress of the Hagerman Police Department. He was nominated by Rachelle Bateman, chief of the Department.

The statement read by Fuller said that Childress has been in law enforcement for 16 years, but has only been with the Hagerman Police Department for a short time. However, in that time, Childress has been able to make a big impact working on and assisting with drug interdictions in the Pecos Valley.

“Officer Childress takes extreme pride in his community. He is held in high regards amongst his peers and in the community,” Fuller said.

The final officer recognized was officer John White of the Roswell Police Department. Neither White or his presenter could make it to the ceremony. Lt. Ray Sharpe presented the award, while Roswell sergeants Dylan Thomas and Michael Fry accepted the honor on White’s behalf.

Reading from a prepared statement, Sharpe said that White has been with the department for two years and when needed, he will often volunteer to stay at work late or come in early.

“Officer White is a valuable member of the Roswell Police Department, has a positive impact on several members of the community,” Sharpe said.

He often takes time to run with cadets at the New Mexico Youth ChalleNGe Academy and mentor young people.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

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