COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL)— Tuesday afternoon, dozens of awards were given to officers of the Columbus Police Department, 911 dispatchers, and members of the Citizen’s Police Academy for their efforts in keeping Columbus safe. It was all a part of the police department’s Annual Employee Recognition Ceremony.

Family and friends came from across the nation to celebrate their loved ones.

Awards were given to those who saved lives, apprehended criminals, and even helped stand in place of their grieving officers.

Assistant Chief of Police Joyce Dent-Fitzpatrick says it is important to take the time to recognize our local heroes.

“This event was a yearlong undertaking. We want to celebrate each other,” Dennt-Fitzpatrick said. “Then nation as a whole is having a shortage of police officers and 911 dispatchers. So, what we did was we included all of our employees to receive an award.”

Dent-Fitzpatrick says oftentimes people don’t recognize the compassion it takes to be a police officer.

“We have officers who got awards for chasing people. We had officers who saved live. We have an officer who just came in to work to just help out a fellow employee,” Dent-Fitzpatrick said. “He became the Officer of the Year. So that’s telling you that you don’t always have to catch a burglar. You don’t always have to end up in a foot chase. It’s not about arresting everybody, it’s about the compassion we have.”

Officer Caleb Erickson was named 2023’s Officer of the Year. On March 8, 2023, the Columbus Police Department lost one of their own. Officer John Marr had been in the department for seven years. It was a loss that hit the entire department.

“Officer Marr was a friend of mine. Along with most of his shifts, my roommate, he actually was squad mates with Officer Marr. He was very close with all of them,” Erickson said. “I knew talking to my friends that they were going to be calling out and taking time that they deserved to grieve. I just I didn’t want to see my friends hurt. I knew the city was going to be hurting so I just wanted to come in and help out and do my part.”

Officer Erickson worked two nightshifts in addition to his regular morning shifts, standing in place of his fellow law enforcement officers.

A number of other awards were given in addition to the Officer of the Year.