SPD celebrates annual Police Awards Banquet


The 2024 Swainsboro Police Awards Banquet was held Thursday evening, February 22, at Beaver Creek Plantation. Swainsboro Police Chief Randy Ellison opened the program with a welcome to everyone and a note of appreciation to the Webb Family of the Beaver Creek venue for their special support. The Chief also thanked Sgt. Grant, Administrative Assistant Zelda Sumner and his wife Wanda for decorating the room. Members of city council Julian Sconyers and Johnny Ray Stafford were in attendance as well as Mayor Greg Bennett and Municipal Judge Richard McNeely.

Following the banquet meal, the annual awards ceremony highlighted the recognition of achievement and presentation of honors for individual officers for the 2023 service year. Chief Ellison commended the entire department for its dedication in serving the City of Swainsboro including the divisions of patrol, drug suppression, investigations, animal control, code enforcement and administration. In the many years since Chief Ellison first initiated the awards banquet, over 300 individual awards have been earned by members of the staff. The first order of recognition for the evening was the traditional “swearing in ceremony” of new Police Officers. This year, Ptl. Jacob Wheeler, Ptl. Cari Hall, and Ptl. Tyler Beasley were given the charge of the oath by Mayor Bennett. Chief Ellison delivered the badge creed to the newly sworn officers. The badge creed symbolizes the solemnity and weight of responsibility in the enforcement of the law that is reflected by the outward display of the badge. In a special segment of the evening’s agenda, four officers received promotions. In announcing these, Chief Ellison emphasized that the recipient must first demonstrate mastery of the duties of the lower rank, and then be willing to learn and carry out the duties of the higher rank. Promotions are granted once a year to fill the gaps in the chain of command, but only if earned by those considered promotable. The following officers were recognized for their hard work and dedication to duty. Ptl. Le’untay Starnes received promotion to Patrolman First Class. Pfc Seth Purvis received promotion to the rank of Corporal. Sgt. Mathew Williams and Sgt. James Young were both promoted to Staff Sergeant. Chief Ellison also commended Sgt. Williams and Sgt. Young for their prior service as Sergeant and completion of all levels 1 ,2 and 3 of Supervision Training (120 hours) as required by policy.

In a time-honored highlight of the evening, the ”Officer of the Year” Award was again given to the individual who is selected by the majority of his or her peers for demonstrating extraordinary accomplishments over the previous year. This award ribbon is worn by the selected officer for one year, unless re-selected for the same. Chief Ellison commented, “This year’s winner comes prepared to tackle whatever comes his way during his tour of duty. He keeps himself motivated and does not allow outside influences to affect his job duties. This officer’s name will join those previously selected for this honor as indicated by a plaque displayed in the agency’s headquarters. This officer served our great nation as part of the United States military and continues his service to our community. It gives me great pleasure to award the “Officer of the Year” for 2023 to Ptl. Le’untay Starnes. After Ptl. Starnes received a standing ovation, the Chief also added that Ptl. Starnes received a unanimous vote from his fellow officers for this honor.

The following awards were presented:

Intoximeter – Ptl. Danelia Santos and Ptl. Tyler Beasley

Safe Driver – Sgt. Robbie Carter and Sgt. Mathew Williams

Supervision - Sgt. James Young (1 – 2014) (2 & 3 – 2023) and Sgt. Mathew Williams (1-2016), (2 & 3 - 2023)

Marksman – Cpl. Todd Purcell (Ribbon) and Sgt. Robbie Carter (3 knot)

Expert – Sfc. Craig Waring (Ribbon), Sfc. Angie Wilkerson (Ribbon), S.Sgt... Josh Bedgood (2 knot), Capt. Richard Peacock (4 knot), SFC. Rebecca Snellgrove (5 knot), Sgt. Kersey (2 Ribbon), Sgt. Ashley Riner (2 knot second ribbon), Capt. Coleman Hall (one knot)

2023 Top Gun (Highest Score), SFC. Rebecca Snellgrove

Good Conduct - SSgt. Josh Bedgood (2nd Award), Sgt. Kersey – (2nd Award), Sgt. Grant – (3rd Award), SFC Wilkerson - (3rd Award)

Medal of Honor - Sgt. Adam Kersey and PFC. Seth Purvis

Officer of the Year - Ptl. Le’untay Starnes

As the program moved toward conclusion, the order of business took a personal turn as Chief Ellison marked the approaching milestone of 15 years’ service as Chief of the Swainsboro Police Department. He recounted the pleasure he has always taken in leading and fighting for those he led. In doing so, he explained he has always considered himself a cop first and holding the rank of Chief as second. “The many decisions that I have made and continue to make were always made with the best interest of my staff and the agency in mind. Tonight, I am officially announcing to my great staff and those in attendance that I will be retiring in December of this year having completed a total of 35 years of service in law enforcement with various agencies.” Ellison referenced his parents as his guideposts for his personal and professional life. “My father, as some of you know, was a decorated war veteran and he instilled in me to work hard every day to leave something better than you found it. My mother taught me compassion and to look at somebody not from the outside but find what lays inside a person”. The Chief closed on a lighthearted note with a favorite expression, “I still haven’t found out who let the dogs out, or where’s the beef, or why all the flavors of fruit loops taste the same, or how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop, why eggs are packaged in a flimsy paper cartoon but batteries are secured in plastic that’s tough as nails, why “abbreviated” is such a long word or why there is a D in fridge but not refrigerator and why do you have to put your two cents in but its only worth a penny for your thoughts and just what is Victoria’s secret? I still don’t know all of that. But one thing I do know is that I will leave this department in better shape than I found it fifteen years ago. I know that I have the best staff that a chief of police could possibly have, and I know that each of you in this department will do the right thing at the right time for the right reason. As I stand here before you as your Chief and your brother, I want you to know I will always be grateful for my time here and will remain proud of what we have accomplished together. I will complete the next 10 months of duty by focusing on completing my mission by reaching new goals I have set for this agency, and I will continue to work hard for each of you to make your job as safe and enjoyable as possible. I thank you for the confidence you have in me, and for allowing me to have such an amazing group to lead. It's been an honor.”

At this point, Administrative Assistant Zelda Sumner took the podium to express her gratitude and appreciation on behalf of the administrative staff to Chief Ellison. She then called on Captain Richard Peacock who provided a response from the uniformed staff as well as recollections of the past fifteen years. Former Mayor Charles Schwabe recounted the hiring of Chief Ellison and the professionalism he brought to the department. “I felt like we picked the right man at the right time for the right job when we hired Chief Ellison back then, and I still feel that way today”. In a final tribute, former City Administrator Al Lawson chose several words that he felt were the most descriptive of the Chief. Lawson concluded, “Professionally, the one word that comes to mind when I think of the Chief is integrity, and personally, the one word that says it all is friend”. With that, a very busy and meaningful observance of professionalism and camaraderie came to a close. Congratulations to all those recognized and honored.