Four local civic clubs came together Tuesday in praise of law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line to protect the community.

An officer from each of the five local agencies was honored at the “Respect for Law Officers of the Year” banquet co-hosted by Seven Hills Rotary, Rome Noon Optimist Club, Rome Lions Club and Kiwanis Club of Rome.

First up was Ray Malone, a corrections officer at the Floyd County Prison. Warden Michael Long told those in attendance that Malone can find anything and he is the best contraband officer he has ever seen. To date, Malone has brought in over 150 phones, along with countless numbers of drugs and weapons.
In fact, Long said the best thing he and the prison have going for them is Malone’s service.
Another officer honored at the event was Georgia State Trooper First Class Lee Bowden, formerly of Rome Police Department.
Bowden, who was presented his award by the Rome GSP post commander Scott Thompson, said the RPD is his home and the training and officers there taught him everything he needed to know about being in law enforcement. Thompson said Bowden’s work ethic is so outstanding that he consistently works more car wrecks than anyone in the agency — even joking that he steals them from some of the local agencies.
Bowden also was present during the 20-mile car chase that led to Floyd County Sheriff’s Cpl. Robbie Whitfield being honored Tuesday as well.
Cave Spring resident Theodore Barnett led law enforcement officers on a 20-mile chase on April 21. He almost got away, but Whitfield noticed that Barnett had run behind a house on Looney Road. Sheriff Tim Burkhalter said that Whitfield’s quick actions probably saved the homeowner’s life, as Barnett “was a very dangerous individual.”
Whitfield and Bowden helped wrestle Barnett to the ground, Burkhalter said. Facing a slew of charges, Barnett hanged himself in his jail cell on April 27.
Floyd County police officer Jesse Crider was also honored, for his actions during a home invasion and his prevention of an armed robbery during the Christmas season.
Three men broke into a home on Callier Springs Road in January 2015 but took off when police arrived on scene. Crider, who was still in training, chased them down and arrested them, according to Maj. Tom Ewing.
Nearly 11 months later, Crider noticed a car that looked out of place in the area and decided to talk to the driver.
When he saw the driver, he realized he had the same description of an armed robbery suspect, Ewing said. The man was apparently planning to rob a nearby house, but Crider calmly persuaded him to surrender himself and his weapons.
The final officer honored, Aaron Thacker, is no stranger to awards.
Rome Police Chief Denise Downer-McKinney said Thacker joined the force in 2011 and, by 2014, he had been promoted to the special enforcement unit, specifically targeting DUI drivers. He’s done so well that he received a Mothers Against Drunk Driving DUI Hero Award on Thursday.
“He represents the Rome Police Department very well,” Downer-McKinney said.
Thacker said that protecting the community is very close to his heart.
“Everyone you get off the road is eventually saving someone’s life,” Thacker told the audience.
County Manager Jamie McCord closed the ceremony by saying that there are no better law enforcement agencies in the state, making Floyd County one of the safest communities to live in