Officer Morris Pike of the GPD, a member of the GDOA board responsible for selecting the officer of the year, said the board seeks an individual who has distinguished himself through service both on the job and in the community.
“It was long overdue. Willie got what he deserved,” said Pike. “He’s out in the community. The kids come to him. They use him as a positive role model.”
The award, a distinction never before achieved by a local officer, resulted from the efforts of Pam Nutt, the media specialist at Moore Elementary School, who was responsible for Neal’s nomination through a letter to GDOA, citing his actions with the D.A.R.E. program in the Griffin-Spalding County School System.
Neal is equally appreciative of the support he has been offered by the people he works with in the school system.
“I just really want to thank the people that made it possible for me to receive this award,” said Neal. “All the fifth-grade teachers at Moore Elementary, Mrs. Williams, Mrs. Nash and Mrs. Henderson, the media specialist, Pam Nutt, who got everything started, and Dr. Martha Taylor, the principal. Most of all it was the students who wrote the letters to the GDOA. I want to thank all the teachers and students in Spalding County schools.”
Lt. Felita Morgan, public information officer for the GPD also acknowledged Neal’s efforts to keep the D.A.R.E. program active in the community despite severe budget cuts.
“The barbecues and a lot of the fund-raisers that were done last year, Officer Neal used a lot of his own funds to try and raise money for this program. With Officer Neal, it was his time that he was using. It never cost the department a penny,” Morgan said. “That’s how dedicated he is. That’s why this is so special that Officer Neal won this award, not just for himself but for the whole GPD.
Though enjoying the honor he recently received, Neal also has his mind on the upcoming school year.
“I hope this year I can have more support from the community to have an even better program. This goal this year is to focus on responsibility. I want to teach kids that they have to be responsible for their actions,” said Neal. “That is my goal.”
“In today’s society, a majority of people have that ‘What’s in it for me’ mentality,” said Morgan. “If Officer Neal can keep one child from getting involved with drugs and gangs when they get older, he will invest his own time and money in that. He knows it’s a job well done.”