Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TOP STORY >> Officers to get honor for standoff

Leader staff writer

Two Jacksonville police officers will be recognized as the best policemen in Arkansas on Wednesday for their actions during the standoff last summer between a gunman and police in the Foxwood neighborhood.

The gunman was fatally shot in his home after he fired several rounds toward the police.

Sgt. Brett Hibbs and officer John Alberson will both be honored at 7 p.m. as 2009 Officers of the Year during the 42nd annual Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police convention banquet at the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs.

“It is an honor of a lifetime,” Hibbs said. “It is something very few officers receive in their career.”

“It is a rare opportunity,” he continued. “I do not know anyone who has received the award.”

Alberson said he was surprised to find out he would be named officer of the year.

“I think it is a great honor, we didn’t know we were nominated,” Alberson said. “I don’t think it will sink in until we are actually there.”

Hibbs said that officers have to train, practice and try to prepare for any possible situation like the Foxwood shootout that comes along with being a police officer.

To be recognized for their work by the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police is rewarding, he said.

Hibbs is a 14-year veteran of the Jacksonville Police Department. He is assigned to the Support Services Division.

Law enforcement runs in his family. Hibbs’ father, Larry Hibbs, was the Jacksonville police chief from 1994 to 2001 and a longtime police officer.

Alberson is an 11-year veteran of the Jacksonville Police Department. He is assigned to the Patrol Division.

The officers were selected for the award from a group of candidates from other law enforcement agencies from throughout the state.

Jacksonville Police Chief Gary Sipes nominated Hibbs and Alberson for the award.

He said he nominated the officers based on their actions during the five-hour stand-off in August.

Sipes said the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police banquet and the officer of the year award is a special event and a great honor.

He also said that the AACP award is the most prestigious in Arkansas for an officer to receive.

During the Foxwood shooting, the gunman shot Alberson in the shoulder. Hibbs was the team leader of the department’s special-response team.

The shooter fired an SKS rifle and a shotgun at police. The standoff ended when police shot the gunman in the head.

“I chose them for their bravery. They put their own lives on the line for the other officers and citizens who were there that day,” Sipes said.

He said, “I am proud of them. They did a heck of a job that day under duress.”

Today, Alberson is able to look at the positive side of that terrible day.

“I felt honored to serve that day with all my fellow officers,” Alberson pointed out.

Usually the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police selects one officer, but this year the association chose to recognize two officers.

That’s an even bigger honor for the entire Jacksonville Police Department since this is the first time officers from the department have been selected for the award.

The department already recognized the officers earlier this year for their actions last summer. During the police department’s annual awards banquet, Hibbs was given the life saving award.

Alberson was presented with the purple heart in addition to the life-saving award during the police department’s annual awards banquet.