Sanders named Pelham Officer of the Year for 2020

Published 9:31 pm Monday, July 27, 2020

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PELHAM — Officer Al Sanders, recently retired from the Pelham Police Department, was recognized as the 2020 American Legion Post 555 Police Officer of the Year on July 17.

Sanders began his law enforcement career in 1985 with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Police Department. He was hired by Birmingham Police Department in 1988 and worked there until 1990, when he was hired by the Pelham Police Department. He was a member of the Pelham Police Department Tactical Team for several years, after completing a Basic SWAT training course.

“Throughout his career, Officer Sanders has proven himself to be valuable to our agency and to the community, based on his love of people and servant’s heart,” said Pelham Police Chief Pat Cheatwood. “Officer Sanders has been tasked by many supervisors to handle volatile situations involving neighbors, spouses, children and others who simply couldn’t get along. Time and time again, he proved that his effectiveness at talking with people was a valuable resource to the citizens of Pelham and our police department.”

Sanders announced his retirement, effective Feb. 14, after 35 years of police service. Cheatwood said the agency will greatly miss Sanders and his smile, along with his positive outlook on life and the community.

“Officer Sanders is the type of employee that you never have to worry about doing his/her job, and you always know that he’s going to handle each situation with care, thoroughness and professionalism,” Cheatwood continued. “Officer Sanders arrives to work each day in a good mood and his demeanor is contagious. He also leaves each work day with a positive attitude and that is greatly appreciated. I’ve often told Officer Sanders that his love of people and desire to do what is right is something that we can’t teach police officers. It must come from their heart.”

In 2019, a Morale Board was created within the department, made up of a representative from each patrol shift and a dispatcher. The purpose of that board was to gauge morale within the agency, note any changes that could positively affect morale and report those findings directly to Cheatwood, without any other chain of command involved. The chief also tasked them with deciding, along with their fellow employees, who the Officer of the Year should be each year.

“I believe that being chosen by your peers is much more meaningful than being chosen by one or more supervisors,” Cheatwood said, adding, “On Jan. 31 of this year, I tasked the Morale Board with naming the American Legion Post 555 Officer of the Year for 2020. On Feb. 6, Officer Jason Barksdale, a representative of the Morale Board, sent me an email with their recommendation, which was Officer Sanders.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the award could not be officially presented to Sanders until recently, on July 17. However, Sanders was recognized at his retirement ceremony, which was held Feb. 21.

During the ceremony, Cheatwood read the email from Officer Barksdale.

“I could tell that Officer Sanders was honored to have been recognized by his peers and to receive this award. I am honored to have served alongside Officer Sanders for many years and to recognize him for this honor,” Cheatwood said.