Eaton County Sheriff Tom Reich, Deputy Andrew Jenkins and Undersheriff Jeffrey Cook. Deputy Jenkins works in the Delta Township patrol unit. He saved three people from a burning building.
By Howard Spence
On February 13, 2017, Eaton County Sheriff Tom Reich recognized outstanding individual contributions of Eaton County deputies and residents at a ceremony before a packed house of approximately 150 officers, their families and civilian members of the Eaton County community.
Sheriff Reich described his deputies as "beacons of light in a dark world, called on to stand between good and evil."
He thanked them and their families for the sacrifices made to make sure that Eaton County and the surrounding area was a safe place to work, live and raise families. Numerous deputies were cited for individual acts of good police work and developing good relations with members of the Eaton County community. Some statements of appreciation from civilians in Eaton County for certain acts of individual Sheriff Department employees were given as examples of the efforts that are deputies in Eaton County are making to improve the quality of life.
Undersheriff Jeff Cook, citing some of the basic principles of law enforcement officer goals and duties which were first enumerated a century and a half ago, highlighted the fact that one of the most important principles of policing is that "police at all times should maintain relationships in public which reflects the fact that police are themselves members of the public."
The Eaton County Sheriff Department employs over 200 employees as deputies, corrections officers, and support staff in Eaton County. The Eaton County Sheriff not only provides law enforcement services for out County or rural areas, but the sheriff's department also provides all of the law enforcement services for Delta Township on a long-standing contractual basis. Sheriff Reich also is responsible for the operation of the Eaton County Jail, and many of the officers and deputies working for Eaton County are working in correction officer roles.
"I'm proud that we have been able to develop outstanding law enforcement partnerships and relationships with some of the neighboring law enforcement agencies here in mid-Michigan – especially with Lansing police Chief (Michael) Yankowski and his officers and the Michigan State police department troopers," said Sheriff Reich. Some portions of the city of Lansing are actually in Eaton County, and the Eaton County Sheriff Department, the Delta patrol of the Eaton County Sheriff Department, and the Lansing Police Department officers routinely provide backup support for one another – especially in the overlapping areas of jurisdiction along the north and S. Waverly Rd. corridor.
The two major awards given during the awards program this year went to a long-standing police officer, Detective Rick Buxton, and a recent hire to the Sheriff Department, Deputy Andrew Jenkins.
Detective Buxton was recognized for his outstanding service and expertise in a number of criminal investigation areas by both the Eaton County Sheriff Department and law enforcement agencies throughout the adjoining area. He has collaborated in helping to solve some major criminal actions within Eaton County and also in adjoining jurisdictions – up to and including murders and a series of robberies and assaults. For his expertise and long-standing, energetic service to the people of Eaton County, Sheriff Reich awarded Detective Buxton the Deputy of the Year award for 2017.
"Rick Buxton has a tireless work ethic," said Sheriff Reich. "He spent many hours working hard to help solve not only instances of murder, assault, robbery, and fraud in Delta Township, but also helped solve a recent action in Delta Township in which racist graffiti was spray-painted on the homes of some minority residents. His actions exemplify our mission to serve and protect, and to make all of the residents here in Eaton County safe and involved in a peaceful community."
A separate and distinct award was given to Deputy Andrew Jenkins for outstanding service and bravery in the line of duty. Although he is a recent recruit newly added to the Eaton County Sheriff Department Delta patrol, Deputy Jenkins has already been credited with saving the lives of three Delta Township residents during the month of December in 2016. Deputy Jenkins risked his own life by entering a burning condominium in Delta Township and dragged three occupants to safety. The situation would surely have resulted in their death, if he had not acted quickly and bravely while risking his own life to save those three people.
In addition to awards to a number of other deputies and detectives, Sheriff Reich also recognized contributions to public safety in Eaton County which were made by civilians. A number of civilians were recognized and their roles in helping to prevent and/or solve crimes in Eaton County. The circumstances were described and highlighted as they received their awards.
"We are working hard to be open and transparent and to help civilians understand the challenges which we as law enforcement face here in Eaton County every day," said Sheriff Reich. "Every day when a deputy puts on their uniform and goes out into the community and kisses their spouse and kids goodbye, that deputy knows that there is no guarantee that he or she will return safely to them at the end of their shift."
In an effort to help civilians better understand how law enforcement is done and its challenges, Sheriff Reich has initiated a number of "citizen academies" in which up to 50 residents of Eaton County and the surrounding area can be involved in a 10 week hands-on training which shows what the deputies do, how they do it, and why they do it.
If members of the public want to enroll in the next Eaton County Sheriff Department civilian police Academy, they should contact Sheriff Reich at 517-543-3512 or 517-372-8217.