The Orange County Sheriff’s Department awarded 54 brave individuals, mostly comprising deputies, for going above and beyond the call of duty in the year 2020, during its 33rd annual Medal of Valor event on Sept. 30.
The event featured deputies recalling individual and group accounts during a prerecorded presentation in front of a live audience. After the video presentation, Sheriff Don Barnes personally awarded the deputies their medals. Awards included medals for life-saving, merit, courage, distinguished deputy, and others.
“Today’s honorees exemplify what it means to be a servant leader. Someone focused on their contributions to the community they serve, not on what is in it for them,” Barnes said during the event.
“I can say without reservation, these 54 awardees represent the vast majority of peace officers who come to work each and every day to protect and serve their community. Fifty-four people whom we heard in their own words, sharing their stories and experiences, giving up themselves for the benefit of people they did not even know.”
While only a select few were chosen to receive the prestigious awards, Barnes highlighted a number of courageous acts during 2020, an unprecedented year with COVID-19, civil unrest, and more. Additionally, the Sheriff’s Department had 306,000 calls for service, 61,000 pieces of evidence collected, 6,900 death investigations by the coroner’s office, 1,024 pounds of narcotics seized by the narcotics team, and 51 guns seized.
There were also 267 bomb squad responses, 141 helicopter pursuits, 139 surrenders to K-9 teams, 23 activations by SWAT, and six boat fires put out by harbor patrol.
“This is what we do,” Barnes said. “We run towards the danger, while others are running from it. We help people during their worst times of crisis, often during the worst moments of their lives. Our profession is comprised of courageous men and women who are sworn to duty to protect all people regardless of their personal risks. Policing has become more challenging than ever before, but one that I find has tremendous individual benefit. Wearing this badge is an incredible honor, we must always strive not to tarnish it.”
Barnes finished the event by saying that the last 18 months would have been more difficult if not for the tremendous support of the Orange County community.
“During the trials of the last 18 months, I have seen the tremendous depth of support for the law enforcement community, especially here among Orange County residents,” Barnes said.
“Kind words of encouragement, homemade cards from school children, donated coffee and lunches from local businesses, prayers from our faith community, and countless ‘thank yous’ have not ceased. We feel the love and support from our residents. This genuine support is meaningful to all of us at the Sheriff’s Department. It makes the difficult parts of our job all the more worthwhile.”