Two Southern Illinois conservation officers recently received top awards from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Illinois Conservation Police Officer Chris Johnson of Golconda was honored as the Officer of the Year during a recent IDNR ceremony in Springfield.
“I’ve worked throughout the state of Illinois and I know how many quality officers are in our department and I feel humbled and thankful the Lord allowed me to have a special year,” Johnson told The Southern on Friday.
Conservation Police Officer Steven Vasicek of Union County was a recipient of an Award of Valor and was also named Mississippi Flyaway Council Waterfowl Officer of the Year.
INDR said in a news release that Johnson, an 11-year veteran of the Conservation Police, was honored for his “commitment to all aspects of conservation enforcement.”
Johnson said he’s honored to have his job. One of his favorite moments of last year is when the statewide conservation police officers held their charity golf outing and named his family the beneficiary. Johnson lost his 17-year-old son in 2011. The funds were used to refurbish the weight lifting room at Pope County High School because his son was into weight lifting.
Johnson also coaches high school baseball and conducts a hunt for underprivileged youth in Pope County.
IDNR Director Marc Miller and IDNR Chief of Law Enforcement Rafael Gutierrez presented the awards to officers and community members who assisted law enforcement during 2013.
“Our Conservation Police Officers are among the most highly trained law enforcement officers in Illinois,” Gutierrez said in a statement. “Over and over again they demonstrate their commitment to protecting public safety and upholding Illinois conservation laws. It is an honor to work with such dedicated officers.”
Vasicek was presented the Award of Valor, in part, for his role in thwarting an armed burglary of a residence.
Scott Harvel, chief deputy at the Union County Sherriff’s Office said he often works with Vasicek and that he “does an excellent job for Union County enforcing gaming laws.”
“He is always willing to help our office,” Harvel said. “He’s a very, very hard worker and he takes his job seriously, yet he’s able to do that and treat the public with a great deal of respect."
Union County Sheriff David Livesay also said he couldn’t emphasize enough how good of a job Vasicek does for the county.
“He goes above and beyond anytime we need something,” Livesay said.