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Fortner named top cop

Shane Fortner has been a patrol officer with the Oxford Police Department for just three years — not a very long time, but just long enough to prove he’s one of the best of the best.

Fortner was named OPD’s Police Officer of the Year Friday night during the annual awards banquet held at The Powerhouse.

Fortner was presented the award by Investigator Hardie Meeks, who received the award last year. Before announcing the top cop award, Meeks asked all former Officers of the Year to join him on stage. Some of the past award winners included Chief Joey East, retired Investigator Jimmy Williams and Maj. Jeff McCutchen.

Fortner said he had no idea he was the winner until his name was announced by Meeks.

“I was astonished,” he said after the ceremony. “Just amazing and an honor to be standing up there with that great group of men.”

Fortner said it’s Oxford residents who motivate him to put on his uniform each day.

“They look out for us,” he said. “They support us and we do our best to protect and support them each day in return.”

Meeks said while OPD has many qualified officers for Officer of the Year, Fortner was a standout officer in 2015.

“I had the opportunity to train him when I was captain on night shift,” Meek said. “He was hard-headed and he hasn’t changed — but that’s good. He’s got instinct. He believes in his gut feelings. He hasn’t been here very long but you’d never know it with all his accolades he’s received. He’s an outstanding asset to this department.”

Several other awards were given out during the evening leading up to Fortner’s award. Those included: Reserve Officer of the Year, Lauren DeVelle; Newcomer of the Year, Brandon Jenkins; Community Service Award, Alan Ivy; SWAT Officer of the Year, David Misenhelter; Major Achievement Awards, Hildum Sessums and Oxford Code Enforcement Officer Johnny Sossaman; Supervisor of the Year, Craig Baker.

Tupelo pastor and former high school basketball couch David Ball was the guest speaker. He told a story of when one of his high school basketball players made a bad choice and wound up with a group of older men up to no good one night. A police officer on scene took the boy to Ball’s house instead of to jail.

“That officer invested a night with this boy, knowing he was at the crossroads of his life, and brought him to me,” Ball said. “He went on to play college ball. Everything you do causes a ripple affect. One day, someone could be standing at the crossroads and you might have the power to help them choose the right one.”

Ball told the officers not to pay attention to the negative things said about police officers on social media sites.

“The majority of the American people love and respect you,” he said. “Don’t ever think you’re not appreciated.”

East ended the program by telling everyone he was proud of all they do.

“I’m proud of all of you, and I love you, I truly love all of you and I’m hard on you, very hard,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion. “It’s like my children, you’re hard on them because you care for them and you love them … I know how much you all have to give and the power you have inside and it makes me so proud.”