MDC wins top COPS award

Camdenton, MO (MDC) - The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) recently became the first law enforcement agency in the country to receive the national Concerns of Police Survivors' (COPS) 2009 Distinguished Service Award. As the COPS' highest recognition, the annual award is presented to an active, retired or deceased law enforcement officer/official or organization for services beyond the call of duty when addressing police-survivor issues. Members of the law enforcement community nominate recipients with the winner determined by COPS' National Board of Directors.

Conservation Agents Shawn Pennington, who lives in Vernon County and works in Howell County, and Dean Harre, who lives in Cooper County and works in Cole County, received the award for the MDC at the National Police Survivors' Conference on May 14 in Washington, DC. The conference was sponsored by COPS as part of National Police Week, May 10-16.

The Department of Conservation received the award based on a long history of its conservation agents and other staff supporting COPS and the families of law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty.

"We are truly grateful for the 14 years of continuing and increasing involvement by the Department of Conservation," said COPS Executive Director Suzy Sawyer. "The agents have touched so very many lives through teaching outdoor skills to people who are debilitated by the grief they are experiencing following the death of their law enforcement officer."

The Department's involvement began in 1993 with the idea to help surviving families who come to Missouri for grief retreats during the year. The MDC introduced COPS to its "Becoming an Outdoors Woman" program, which teaches outdoors skills such as canoeing, fishing, shooting, archery and self-defense. The Department then became involved in COPS' Kids Summer Camp where agents taught outdoor skills to children and their parents. While the Kids Summer Camp relocated to Wisconsin in 2005 to escape the intense August heat in Missouri, MDC agents continue to be involved with COPS through other outdoor retreats for surviving families.

"Much of the success of these programs lies in the hands of the conservation agents who give so much of themselves to bring about noticeable changes in the lives of the survivors who they bond with during each retreat," added Sawyer.

The MDC also produced a video that focused on how COPS helps families of fallen officers through its retreats and other support services. The video was featured on the MDC's "Missouri Outdoors" television program.

In 2007 and 2008, the Missouri Conservation Agents Association held golf tournaments, which raised almost $12,000 each year to help COPS fund its spouses retreat. The Association will also host a 2009 tournament on Aug. 9 at Old Kinderhook Golf Course in Camdenton.

Concerns of Police Survivors was founded in 1984 to help surviving families of law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty. Originally based outside of Washington, DC, the organization moved to Missouri when Executive Director Suzie Sawyer and her husband relocated to the Lake of the Ozarks region. COPS now serves more than 15,000 families nationwide. To learn more, visit or call 573-346-4911.