Troopers honored by city

The city of Columbus has shown its appreciation during the Thanksgiving season to a community 900 miles away for taking care of a southern Indiana family at its most vulnerable time.

When a piece of road debris left eight members of the Jason and Natalja Harrison family stranded for three days during a late-summer vacation trip, a trio of Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers came to the rescue.

Due to the troopers’ efforts — especially those undertaken by Patrolman Chris Newcomb — the Harrisons of rural Columbus received free lodging, free meals, a free loaner car, a free day at a water park, free gasoline and much-needed support in the town of Clinton, Oklahoma.

As a news release from the city of Columbus put it, the generosity and compassion from both the troopers and Clinton residents was “nothing short of amazing.”

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For that reason, the city and the Columbus Police Department are officially honoring Newcomb, Lt. Paul Christian and Patrolman Aaron Hunter for actions above and beyond the call of duty.

The Oklahoma officers were credited with leaving a lasting impression on not only the Harrison family but the entire community of Columbus, one letter of commendation stated.

“These acts of compassion show that police officers are not only human beings, but they care deeply about their profession and the people they serve,” the city stated.

The letters and three CPD patches were sent to the officers in western Oklahoma as an token of appreciation.

Several local officers, including Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers, have expressed concerns about the consequences of national news stories of police brutality.

But on the flip side are reports such as a Texas officer who bought boots for a homeless man, four Georgia officers who paid for a 30-mile cab ride for a stranded suspect and an Evansville officer who stopped traffic to return a beloved lost teddy bear to a little girl.

“Too many times, there is a rush to judgment regarding the actions of law enforcement,” the commendation letters to the Oklahoma officers stated. “During a time when the actions of all law enforcement officials are under scrutiny, these men and support personnel have demonstrated the true values of police officers to the public.”

Columbus Police Department Lt. Alan Trisler, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Local 89, said he has experienced more expressions of appreciation from the public over the past six months than he has during the previous nine years.

“I think the silent majority is not being silent any longer,” Trisler said.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.