‘Not any ordinary person’ can do what his deputies do, sheriff says at awards luncheon

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office honored it’s top deputies and employees on Friday at it’s annual awards banquet.

Those honored were:

  • Detective Rebecca Angel — Deputy of the Year.

  • Alicia Habib — Employee of the Year.

  • Sgt. Michael Jones and his wife Jen — Beall’s Humanitarian Award.

  • Yvonne Gard — Robert & Dan E. Molter Memorial Volunteer Award.

Often it’s only the bad things that people hear about, Sheriff Rick Wells told those gathered at the luncheon at the IMG Academy Golf Club, 4350 El Conquistador Pkwy., Bradenton. Not everyone can do what members of his office due every day, he told them.

“Not just any ordinary person can do that,” Wells said. “They have tried. They have failed. They have not lasted long. They moved on to other things less difficult that what you do every day so I just want to say thank you.”

Wells asked his staff and deputies to take some time to enjoy the holiday season with their families.

“We don’t have as much time as we think,” Wells said. “So just slow down, when you can, and enjoy being with the ones you love.”

Angel, who was deputy of the month in February, was awarded the honor of deputy of the year for her work on a sexual battery case. The detective, a member of the Crimes Against Person Unit, discovered during her investigation that the suspect in the case may have been sex trafficking women for years. She searched for more victims, according to the sheriff’s office and reached out to other local agencies and organizations to get the victims the help they needed.

“Due to her efforts, a human trafficking suspect was apprehended and more importantly many vulnerable women received the help they needed to get out of the situation they were in,” Deputy Patrick Manning said during the presentation. “Detective Angel had every opportunity to solve the case and move on to the next one, but she went above and beyond in order to locate and help as many of the woman as she could.”

Habib, an child protection investigator, was awarded employee of the year for her work in a case in which a child whohad been taken from her mother’s care was being human trafficked, according to the sheriff’s office. She was given the case in November 2017 and discovered that even though the girl was placed in the care of another relative, the mother was still having the child meet her secretly and sex trafficking her.

Working with law enforcement, Habib worked to have the girl placed somewhere else so that the mother could not get to her. The girl was eventually returned to that relative.

“Alicia worked diligently on this case for over seven months and although her investigation is completed, she continues to stay in contact with the child and service providers,” Manning said.

Jones and his wife were presented with the humanitarian award for the fostering and ultimate adoption of four siblings who were removed from the family home, according to the presentation by Bill McLaughlin, vice president with Beall’s.

The couple had been fostering two of the siblings when child protection services in Sarasota asked if they could take in the other two relatives. The couple adopted all four children in August. Without children of their own, the couple sold their home so they could buy one large enough for their new family of six.

“With new birth certificates in hand, Mike and Jen have made four lives better,” McLaughlin said. “No one can predict the future but these four children now have loving parents to care for them and as we know, this is the start to a successful life.”

Guard was honored with the volunteer award for her work throughout the year to prepare for the sheriff’s office annual charity events: the Flight to the North Pole and the Michelle Wells Memorial Golf Tournament, according to the sheriff’s office. She has played a major role in both events for years, including shopping and stockpiling toys year round for Flight to the North Pole and helping organize the golf tournament.

“As anyone can see, this person dedicates an abundance of her free time to playing a volunteer role in charities near and dear to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office,” Capt. Kathryn Estabrook said.