For the first time in department history, a Clay County sheriff's deputy has received one of the highest honors an officer can be awarded.
Detective Matt Hanlin has been named the National Sheriffs' Association 2012 Officer of the Year.
Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler made the announcement at a training seminar in Baker County in front of 100 other officers from around the region.
Beseler nominated Hanlin for the award a few months ago for the acts of valor he displayed the night of Feb. 16, 2012, and ever since. Hanlin was shot in the arm, and his partner, Detective David White (pictured, below), was killed that night while they were investigating a suspected meth lab in Middleburg.
On Thursday, Hanlin gave an hour-long presentation to officers from agencies around the region about his experiences.
Hanlin played the radio call he made after he was shot letting command know what happened. He also showed several photos from the shooting scene, talking through every step of what happened.
The regional training was organized by the Florida Narcotic Officers' Association and focused on the traumatic effects officers face during and after responding to critical incidents.
Hanlin and Beseler spoke about their experiences and explained how important it is for all agencies to be as prepared as they can be for a line-of-duty death.
They talked about everything from briefing the media, notifying the officer's family, planning the funeral, and organizing memorials in the years to follow.
In recognizing Hanlin, Beseler praised the detective for his courage to talk to others about his traumatizing experience as a surviving partner of White's. Beseler said Hanlin's integrity and humble attitude is what led to the 3,000 sheriffs to nominate Hanlin as Officer of the Year.
"The sheriff actually called me one day and he asked me if I was sitting down, and I thought I was getting fired or something," Hanlin said. "I told him, 'Yeah,' and he explained to me that I'd been put in for it and that I believe it was over (3,000) sheriffs that all select the candidate and that I'd been selected for it. Obviously I'm proud of it. It's hard to accept awards for that situation and to be happy about them, but you know I like to accept them in Detective White's honor."
The award will be presented to Hanlin in June at the National Sheriffs' Association Conference in Charlotte, N.C.