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Secret Service presents awards

Agents from the U.S. Secret Service’s Richmond Field Office presented their highly-coveted Director’s Awards to the Prince Edward County Sheriff’s Office, Farmville Volunteer Fire Department, Farmville Police Department and Longwood University Police Department on Tuesday for the agencies’ help in coordinating security efforts for the sole 2016 U.S. Vice Presidential debate held Oct. 4 at Longwood University.

“Today is just an opportunity for us to recognize both departments for their outstanding contribution during the debate that was held here last year,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Kerry M. Crowe.

Crowe cited that the award is from the director of the secret service, a position held by Randolph Alles.

“We don’t give these awards every time. We just, you know, have an event, we give them for big events, special events,” Crowe said. “… It’s a token of the hard work that was put in for all the months of planning.”

He said from a security planning perspective, the service has to plan for the worst.

“It does require a lot of planning, and there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes, and during the event itself it went pretty seamless,” Crowe said. “I think everybody did an extraordinary job; this was certainly not the Secret Service’s event. We just basically managed it.”

He noted the event’s success was a huge effort on the part of Virginia State Police and local law enforcement agencies.

“On behalf of the Town of Farmville and the Farmville Police Department, I certainly want to thank each of you all,” said Farmville Police Chief A.Q. “Andy” Ellington. “This is something we’ll truly treasure for the rest of our time as a law enforcement agency. …”

Longwood University Police Chief Col. R.R. Beach said there were about 18 months of planning before the debate.

“I remember the rumors started that there was a possibility that Longwood was going to put in to see if we could get them to (have the debate) here, and that word came to me,” Beach said. “I remember laying in my bed one night praying, ‘If that really happened, could we do it?’ I really thought about it a lot. …”

Beach said the debate was the type of function that “just about any chief of police has (a) certain level of desire to want to do” because it tests their ability.

“Finally, (at) about 2 a.m. … it came to me, and I said, ‘You know what, we’ve spent almost a decade building the Longwood University Police Department as what it is, and I have every bit confidence that … (we) had the ability to carry (the debate) out,’” Beach said noting the capabilities of his co-workers and employees.

Beach said in the end, more than 1,500 emergency services professionals helped through the planning and operations of the debate, which drew the eyes of millions to Farmville and Longwood.

“We were pleased to work with all the agencies involved,” Prince Edward County Sheriff Wesley Reed said.

Each award included a plaque that read, “In appreciation for your many contributions in support of the Secret Service mission and to your selfless commitment to the ideals and principles of responsible law enforcement,” followed by the name of the agency.

No arrests or serious incidents occurred during activities associated with the debate.

“A wide variety of other agencies leant their support, ranging from a Civil Support Team from the National Guard; the National Weather Service; Virginia Department of Transportation; regional fire departments; and officers from as far away as the Pennington Gap Police Department,” Farmville Police Department officials said in an October press release. “At the same time, our local volunteer fire departments and EMS went above and beyond, providing extensive personnel and equipment resources.”

According to police, at the height of the debate, more than 550 public safety personnel were actively involved with the operation.