SIDNEY — A Sidney police officer was honored for his commitment to his community by the Ohio attorney general Wednesday.
Officer Mike McRill, community service officer, received the Distinguished Law Enforcement Community Service Award during the Ohio Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Conference. AG Mike DeWine presented the award to McRill.
“Today we are recognizing officers who have gone above and beyond to serve members of their communities in 2015,” said Attorney General Mike DeWine during the ceremony. “We appreciate their hard work and dedication to protecting Ohio’s families.”
This is the first time a Sidney officer has been honored by the attorney general’s office, said Chief Will Balling, who nominated McRill for the award.
“He’s a one in a million individual,” said Balling. “Our motto is to serve and protect. Mike is here for the service side. He’s 100 percent service to the community.”
After 12 1/2 years as a teacher, McRill felt something was missing from his life.
“This (police officer) was something I always felt I was supposed to be,” said McRill. “My entire family was in education. I think I felt an obligation to follow the family line.”
McRill joined the Sidney Police Department in 2000. He became the community resource officer in 2014.
“I’ve had the best two careers a person could have,” said McRill. “I know I made the right decision. I liked being a teacher, but now I love coming to work. I get to see what’s good in law enforcement.”
In his nomination letter, Balling wrote, “Officer McRill truly cherishes and has intense compassion for the Sidney community and he brings honor to our profession. On and off duty, Officer McRill exemplifies what it means to be a ‘good’ officer … The community loves him and he loves what he’s doing!”
The nomination process was secret so McRill had no idea Balling had nominated him for the award until he received a letter in the mail.
“About a month ago, he told me to sign up for the AG conference,” said McRill. “Then I got a letter in the mail.”
“He comes to my office asking if I knew about it (award),” said Balling.
Local letters of support for McRill’s nomination were received from Lori Werling, who portrays Safety Pup, Clear Creek Farms Director Chad Gessler, New Choices Director Kathy Lindsey, other police officers from the two-county area of Shelby and Miami and local business owners.
“I’m a little embarrassed to receive the award,” said McRill. “I feel very humbled. I know what the other guys in the department do that no one sees. It’s embarrassing to be singled out.”
McRill was accompanied to the ceremony by his wife, Karen, daughter, Heidi, and his mom, Cynthia. The New Choices staff also attended the ceremony.
Balling and the three Sidney Police Department captains — Jerry Tangeman, Bill Shoemaker and Mike Rosengarten — all attended the event.
“All my command staff was there,” said McRill. “That was very humbling.”
McRill said he wished he could take the entire department up on stage with him when he received the award.
“I get to do the fun job,” said McRill. “They do they heavy lifting.”
When he was on the stage and a recap of his career was being read, McRill kept thinking that it just wasn’t him making the programs successful. It is every person in the department who assists with the programs or has developed the programs. It’s teamwork that makes everything come together.
“This award is not just what I did,” said McRill. “I’m fortunate to be part of a department who allows us to do this (extra programs).”
The afternoon’s event was cut short for the officers when they were notified by detectives that a drug bust was going down later that day.
“We had to leave early because of the bust,” said McRill. “Last Friday was my last day with SWAT. I had been a member for 13 years. They needed an additional person yesterday and asked me if I’d help.”
McRill said the best part of his job is knowing that he has the ability to make a difference in someone’s life.
“I go to the Salvation Army and the little kids will jump up and yell, ‘the officer is here.’ I go to Shelby Hills once a week,” he said. “I like to play with the kids. I’ll take someone out for lunch at the Spot. Or I’ll give a tour of the police department.”
Each of those aspects is an important part of his role as community service officer.
The growing drug epidemic in the city is one aspect of his job that McRill has donated time and effort to help people kick their addiction.
“Heroin addicts are deeply immersed in their disease,” said McRill. “It’s our oath to protect and serve. This group needs protecting from their disease. I’ve watched the depths their lives have sunk to. No one would chose to sink to that.
“We need to jump in there, throw them a rope and help them,” said McRill. “I regret I don’t have enough hours in the day to help everyone.”
“Mike’s greatest gift is the community trust he’s built up. He’s there for all law enforcement agencies in the county and all the citizens,” said Balling. “He’s never met a person he didn’t want to help.
“With all the turmoil in the world, Mike is the one person who could bring everyone together,” said Balling. “We need more people like Mike.”
McRill said he just wants to make a difference in a person’s life.
“I want to the a knight in shining armour that finds a princess unconscious in a basement and rescues her,” said McRill.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.