On April 4, 2012, while en route to a shots fired call, Bartow County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Joshua Nelson encountered the suspect’s vehicle on Linwood Road.
While attempting to conduct a traffic stop, Nelson began receiving fire from an AR-15 rifle. Taking cover behind his vehicle, Nelson returned fire with his service weapon, wounding the suspect.
For his actions during the encounter, Nelson this month was recognized at the local and state level as the Elks Lodge Public Safety Officer of the Year.
“All public safety agencies in Bartow County — police, firefighters, EMT, etc. — were contacted and asked to submit an outstanding member from each department for consideration as their candidate for the Cartersville Elks Lodge Public Safety Officer of the Year,” said Gary Robinette, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Cartersville Elks Lodge.
Following recognition during a dinner hosted by the lodge, Nelson’s qualifications were forwarded to the Public Safety Officer of the Year Committee of the Georgia Elks Association for statewide judging, where he also was selected for the state honor.
“... What makes him stand out as an officer of the year, because of this incident, is his evident vigilance, preparedness and response to self-defense training, against an armed and dangerous felon when it mattered most,” Robinette said.
“It’s not a big deal to me. It’s a department thing, if you ask me,” Nelson said. “I don’t feel I really did anything special to deserve it.”
A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Nelson joined the BCSO four years ago after serving two tours of duty in Iraq.
“... I always knew I wanted to do military and then law enforcement, so I went to the military and I came back. Two weeks after I got out of the military, I got hired here,” he said.
Nelson’s dedication and drive make him an asset to the department, Sheriff Clark Millsap said.
“Josh, once again, is one of those I’ve surrounded myself with that’s just dedicated to this county,” Millsap said. “Josh went above and beyond, and goes above and beyond on all calls, but the one he was really recognized for was a shooting incident. He was taking fire from a person with a rifle and all he had to return fire with was a pistol, but he was able to stop the threat and he was able to keep anybody else from being injured. ... He deserved to be recognized for his heroics in that one incident.”
Recognizing officers like Joshua Nelson is just one way the Cartersville Elks Lodge — and organizations across the nation — give back to the community.
“... Although each lodge is essentially autonomous, the public safety officer of the year program is encouraged by the national organization and is practiced by individual lodges across the country at the same time every year. In this manner, public safety officers across the nation can be recognized for their selfless and oftentimes sacrificial service to their communities by an organization with the status of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks,” Robinette said. “The lodges benefit through exemplifying their service-oriented commitment to their individual communities. ...
“Any time a specific organization, of any type, and its employees can demonstrate through its leadership and training that it has set a high standard of service, and can be recognized for it, in the community that it serves is very important. This is particularly true of a public safety organization, whose men and women regularly put themselves in harm’s way while performing their duties. Such recognition instills pride in the members of the organization, as well as a sense of being appreciated in the community by the people they serve and protect.”
“... I heard somebody say this before, ‘You really don’t want us until you absolutely need us. But then when you need us, you absolutely need us.’ Personally, I don’t like recognition for myself. I like recognition as a whole, for everybody,” he said. “It is important to recognize public safety — fire, EMS, law enforcement, everybody. You know, somebody just stops by and says, ‘Thank you for what you do.’ It means a lot because we have to deal with the bad side of society, I guess you could say, and we’re doing it for the good side of society.”
BCSO, captain recognized by GOHS program
Earlier this month, Bartow County Sheriff’s Office and Uniform Patrol Division Capt. Lee Fletcher also took home state honors from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
During the Mountain Area Traffic Enforcement Network (M.A.T.E.N.) meeting, BCSO was named Agency of the Year for the district, and Fletcher was recognized as Officer of the Year for M.A.T.E.N.
M.A.T.E.N. is one of 16 regional traffic enforcement networks across Georgia, according to a press release. The M.A.T.E.N. that includes Bartow also involves 10 other counties north and west of Bartow. The regional networks are open to all sworn law enforcement officers and prosecutors, and are designed to enhance traffic enforcement activities through networking, training and legislation.
“All the agencies inside that network, which is 40-something agencies, selected [BCSO] because of their dedication to traffic safety, everything they do to enforce the traffic laws and they’ve just done a tremendous job in that regard,” said John Gardner, GOHS Northern Region Law Enforcement Liaison.
An “ecstatic” Millsap said the award is indicative of the officers within his agency.
“... I am so proud ... [of] what these officers have done. I had an old sheriff tell me when I first got elected, ‘Surround yourself with the best people you can find.’ I have done that,” he said. “This award is just a prime example of the dedication that these men and women that work here have got for this county and for this state. We participate in this Governor’s Office of Highway Safety program not only here in Bartow, but we lend our officers to other counties as well. It’s all a part of keeping this state and our roads as safe as possible.”
Fletcher echoed the sheriff’s comments.
“I think [the award is] great because we participate in every MATEN II meeting. We always send three or four deputies; they stay the entire time with the agencies, help them out with their road checks,” Fletcher said. “The sheriff is generous enough to make sure we have our own drinks on board, which are provided to other agencies when we are out and it’s hot. We provide the B.A.T.-mobile, which is the blood alcohol transport unit, and it goes along with these guys.”
The GOHS also looked at Fletcher’s contributions to the traffic enforcement program.
“Capt. Fletcher shows his dedication to traffic safety by ensuring that his agency is represented at the regional meetings and that Bartow County participates in the various GOHS traffic enforcement campaigns, such as Operation Zero Tolerance,” a press release state. “Capt. Fletcher is considered an asset to the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office and is instrumental in providing training, scheduling, and participation in the M.A.T.E.N. for his agency.”
For the 23-year BCSO veteran, the award was unexpected.
“I’m at a loss for words because out of 16 counties there’s a lot of agencies that participate in this. I didn’t see it coming,” Fletcher said.
“Lee Fletcher is a dedicated individual whose main objective is to make Bartow County one of the safest places to drive your vehicle. ... Lee takes his job serious and his duties are patrol division for the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office and he is one of the best at what he does,” Millsap said. “He still gets out on the street with these guys because that’s what he likes to do and it’s just an awesome thing for Lee to be chosen as Officer of the Year for the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety for this area.”