On Tuesday, Rotary Club of Florence presented four Florence Police Department officers with the Paul Harris Fellowship, the highest honor Rotary can award.
Rotary President Pat Riley said, “You have been selected to become Paul Harris Fellows because the Rotary Club of Florence believes that your lives and actions exemplify the objectives and principles of Rotary. We thank you for demonstrating in your life and vocation a commitment to the ideal of Service Above Self.”
The four officers, Commander John Pitcher, Sgt. Brandon Ott, Officer Ken Larson and Corrections Officer Stephanie Sansom, were involved in an altercation at the Florence Municipal Jail May 8.
Police Chief Tom Turner said, “On May 8, these officers were exposed to the very worst humanity and society had to offer.”
An Interagency Deadly Force Investigation Team determined May 16 that there was no use of deadly force by Florence police when a prisoner violently attacked Larson and Sansom. Pitcher and Ott were instrumental in restraining the man from causing further injury.
“These officers were exposed to sheer terror, for just a moment, where they fought for their lives, and they persevered,” Turner said. “To keep our community safe from people like this is the responsibility of the police.”
He read a quote from George Orwell, “People sleep easily in their beds at night only because rough men and women stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
Turner then added, “I want to thank you, the Rotary Club of Florence, for honoring and recognizing these officers for their service to this community.”
The four officers were presented the three emblems of the Paul Harris Fellow: a certificate, pin and medal.
“Rotary’s motto is Service Above Self. To us, that exemplified the officers’ action,” said Riley. “Even though it is the job of first responders, police and firefighters to take risk, we believe that sometimes the risks they take and the things they do, really do exemplify Service Above Self.”
According to Riley, Paul Harris founded Rotary in 1905 with the guiding principles of service, fellowship, diversity, integrity and leadership.
“Those principles were developed to provide Rotarians with a strong sense of common purpose and direction, serve as a foundation for our relationships with each other and for the actions we take in the world. Paul Harris Fellows are one of the highest honors a Rotarian can earn,” she said.
Rotary member Kim Erickson presented the fellowships to the board as a way to honor the four officers.
“We all wholeheartedly supported the idea,” Riley said. “As Rotarians, we believe we have a shared responsibility to take action on our world’s most persistent issues. It is through working together that we will ultimately achieve peace and understanding throughout the world.”
According to Turner, Pitcher and Ott were late to the ceremony because they were apprehending suspects involved in a weekend break-in at Florence Public Works.
“I’ve started to notice a pattern, especially with John Pitcher. He loves to stay out of the limelight,” Turner said. “Often, the everyday trials and tribulations of a law enforcement officer go unnoticed by the public. And that’s a great thing. ... With this Rotary recognition for Commander Pitcher, Sgt. Ott, Officer Larson and Officer Sansom, this is a most significant honor for their contribution to society. They couldn’t be more deserving.”