- Associated Press - Sunday, June 15, 2014

YANKTON, S.D. (AP) - Becoming the first South Dakota law enforcement officer to receive the national Enrique S. Camarena Award is a huge honor, according to Yankton Police Officer Patrick Nolz.

“I didn’t realize I was the first officer in the state to receive this award until today,” Nolz recently said during a reception at the Yankton Elks Lodge No. 994 during which he was presented with the award. “It’s very humbling.”

The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks selects a recipient from a pool of state-level candidates on an annual basis.

The award is given in honor of the service and dedication of Enrique S. “Kiki” Camarena, who was an agent of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency for 11 years before he was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by a drug cartel in Mexico in 1985. Camarena was a firefighter, a criminal investigator and a narcotics officer, as well as a husband and father of three children.

His death has inspired millions of Americans to lead a drug-free life, and the Order of Elks celebrates Camarena’s commitment to this effort with an annual award to a member of law enforcement who best exemplifies the qualities and principles for which Camarena gave his life.

Nominees for the award should be in law enforcement officer, be a positive role model committed to a healthy lifestyle and make an outstanding contribution in the field of drug awareness and prevention.

John Cornette, the chair of the South Dakota Elks Association Drug Awareness Program, said that Nolz met the criteria.

“(Nolz) exemplifies what we want our police officers to be,” Yankton Police Chief Brian Paulsen said during the ceremony.

Paulsen said Nolz can be counted on to make good decisions on his feet and is always ready to give drug awareness demonstrations with his K-9 unit, named Grief.

“Officer Nolz supports our youth by doing K-9 demonstrations for D.A.R.E., Safety Town and other special events,” Yankton Police Sgt. Jason Foote wrote of Nolz in a nomination letter for the award. “(He) uses these opportunities to deliver a message to the youth about the importance of being drug free and living in a drug-free community.”

Lt. Michael Burgeson added in his own letter that Nolz “has proven that one person can make a difference in the war on drugs.”

Nolz is also a team leader on the police department’s special response team and a captain in the Yankton Fire Department.

“I can say that I thoroughly enjoy my job. It’s fun going to work,” Nolz said.

Although being a dog handler requires much more work than he imagined when took on the position in 2007, he called working with Grief “fulfilling.”

“The dog has opened doors for us in more ways than one,” he said. “He is a valuable tool. We do demos all the time.”

Nolz became a police officer in 2004.

“I wish I had gotten into it years before that,” he said. “I got started on it late in life.”

Born and raised in Yankton, Nolz said he loves the community and is committed to keeping illicit substances off the streets.

“It hurts to see the (drugs) on the street and the people getting into it,” he said. “It seems to get worse and worse.”

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Information from: Yankton Press and Dakotan, https://www.yankton.net/


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