Owensboro Police Department Chief Art Ealum, as vice chairman of the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council, was scheduled to preside over presenting the J. Melvin Shein distinguished service award to this year's honoree at the agency's meeting this week in Louisville.
But unbeknownst to Ealum, he had been selected to receive the award himself, so other association officials switched around the day of the presentation, so Ealum wouldn't end up having to give the award to himself.
As it happened Ealum was busy taking camera photos of other association members when he heard his name called.
"I had no idea I was nominated or would receive the award," Ealum said Friday. "So it was a bit of a shock.
"I wasn't prepared," Ealum said. "It was a pleasant surprise."
The Kentucky Law Enforcement Council is an organization that focuses on improving and certifying law enforcement training, and upholding professional standards. The Melvin Shein Award recognizes law enforcement professionals for accomplishments over the length of their careers.
This is the second year in a row the award has gone to an Owensboro-area official. Last year, the award was presented to Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain.
"Ballots are sent out to all the Council members" for nominations, said Melissa Beck, the organization's executive staff advisor. The nominations are reviewed and a recipient is selected by a 25-member special committee, Beck said.
Ealum was nominated by Cindy Shain, director of the Southern Police Institute. In her letter nominating Ealum, Shain noted the number of programs Ealum has implemented at OPD, such as the "Adopt A School" program where officers regularly visit schools, both to provide additional security and to build relationships with student, the "Eye On Owensboro" surveillance camera program and the Christmas "Operation Santa" food basket delivery to seniors and people in need.
As a member of the board for Oasis, Ealum was "instrumental in helping the shelter stay open after a huge federal funding cut of nearly $500,000" in 2016, Stain wrote. Ealum also regularly volunteers at St. Benedict's Homeless Shelter and is on the RiverValley Behavioral Health board of directors.
"There have been many contributions in the form of programs to the city of Owensboro that result from form Chief Ealum's leadership," Shain wrote. "These programs have provided a safer environment for our local schools, reached out and assisted senior citizens in times of need and enhanced the OPD's ability to solve crimes."
Ealum said he was appreciative of the award but owed his success to the members of the police department.
"No one can receive an award like that if their organization is not squared away," Ealum said. "It's truly a testament of the professionalism and quality of service (provided by) the men and women of OPD."
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, email@example.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse