Optimist Club honors city firefighter, officer of the year

Steena Hymes

May 13, 2014

The Optimist Club held a luncheon Monday at the Mike Daniels Recreation Center to honor the LaGrange Police Officer and LaGrange Firefighter of the Year for distinguished and dedicated service.

“Today we’re here to recognize what personifies professionalism and commitment both in the fire and police. As the chief of public safety, I’m honored to be able to work with both of these departments who is manned by men and women who are selfless,” LaGrange Public Safety Chief Lou Dekmar said.

Sgt. Rob Vael presented Firefighter Lance Horne with the Firefighter of the Year honor.

“[He] from day one has exemplified the 10 employment standards the city of LaGrange holds,” Vael said. “He dedicates himself to training, being better every day and it shows with his accomplishments.”

Horne joined the LaGrange Fire Department in March 2012 and also serves as a volunteer firefighter in Harris County, where he was born and raised.

In the second quarter of 2013, he was awarded firefighter of the quarter. He graduated rookie school at the top of his class and since joining the LFD has consistently been in the top three for training hours.

Vael described Horne as “honest, tough and hardworking.”

Horne thanked the officers for the nomination and for recognizing the hard-work and dedication he has to the department.

“I couldn’t be more grateful to have firefighter Horne by my side on duty or more proud of the quality service he delivers to the citizens of LaGrange,” Vael said. “I expect great things to come from firefighter Horne.”

Sgt. Dale Armstrong, supervisor over the LPD traffic unit presented traffic unit Officer Wesley Engle as officer of the year.

Engle joined the LPD March 2010 and started in the traffic unit in 2012.

Armstrong recognized Engle for his dedication to the job and his commitment even while off the clock. Engle was also praised for his dedication to education on traffic safety.

Engle responded to 414 wrecks of approximately 2,000 in 2013, nearly twice as many of the next highest responder.

“He’s a great worker, he’s a joy to be around and I’m proud to have him in the [traffic] unit,” Armstrong said.

Engle adds this award to his honor of employee of the quarter in 2013.

Engle said he was shocked when he found out he was selected as Officer of the Year.

“I enjoy my job, I love my job and it’s just an honor to have something like this,” he said.

Dekmar presented an overview of the police and fire activity.

Dekmar said of the 60,000 calls for service, 90 percent of those resulted in something other than arrest through problem solving and mediation.

He also said the police has recently started a predictive crime analysis model which allows for officers to know the areas of town that have been the focus of crime or disorder.

“It allows us to take our finite resources and focus them in a way that addresses not only crime, but those areas of concern that our citizens have,” Dekmar said.

Another issue rising in LaGrange is that of gang activity which Dekmar addressed.

Dekmar said a measure of successful gang deterrence by the police is the lack of presence of graffiti in this area.

“It’s rare that you go around the city and see any gang graffiti,” he said.

The special investigations unit has been deterring gang activity through the recent formation of a gang initiative.

“The efforts, by not only the police department but also the District Attorney’s office and other jurisdictions, we created a inner agency gang initiative that allows us to target these individuals both in the city and the county and around the jurisdiction that are affected,” Dekmar said.

In the last year, police brought over 100 gang counts, Dekmar said.

Last year saw 34 gang-related shootings, which includes everything from a person, a car, building or house. However, in 2014, there has only been one gang-related shooting.

Dekmar also addressed issues from the new gun law, mental health court and community outreach programs.