Breitigan is recipient of Somerville 'Top Cop' award

May 8—LIMA — Jacob Breitigan, a detective with the Shawnee Township Police Department, was named Wednesday as the 56th recipient of the Lima Exchange Club's Law Officer of the Year award, known since 2018 as the Jack Somerville Award.

The presentation capped ceremonies held during the 32nd annual Allen County Police Memorial Service, sponsored by the Fraternal Order of Police Lima Lodge No. 21.

The event is celebrated annually during National Police Week, which this year runs from May 12-18, to honor all of the law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty nationwide. According to information supplied by the local FOP lodge, 136 federal, state, county, municipal, military, tribal and campus officers died in the line of duty in 2023, a 39% decrease from 2022. So far this year, 59 officers have been killed through April 30.

The featured speaker for the police memorial ceremony was Allen County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Reed, who reminded everyone in attendance how difficult being a peace officer can be.

"Why in the world would anybody want to be a police officer?" Reed asked. With tongue firmly in cheek, the judge answered his own question: "Well, the uniforms are pretty cool."

Turning serious, Reed said that becoming a police officer often means low pay, being spit on, receiving public criticism and "occassionally being denounced by people we elected as our leaders. But in the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, 'Blessed be the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.'"

As is the case every year, the names of Allen County peace officers who gave their lives in the line of duty were recited aloud. They included Lima Police Department patrolman Philip Goebel (who died in 1902), LPD patrolman Phillip Droesch (1918), Bluffton Police Officer Owen Grandstaff (1927), Bluffton Police Officer Frank Herrmann (1929), Sheriff Jess Sarber (1933), Allen County Deputy Ralph Harshe (1936), LPD detective Charles Hefner (1951), LPD patrolman Charles Bozeman (1951), American Township Constable Clarence "Pop" Prince (1962), LPD patrolman William Brown (1974) and Bluffton Police Officer Dominic Francis (2022).

"The greatest way to honor the fallen is to never forget their legacy," Reed said. "A hero remembered never dies. Show your respect to them through your behavior to police officers."

Breitigan honored

Breitigan was selected for this year's Law Officer of the Year award for two separate actions involving civilian endangerment. On Feb. 12, 2023, he responded to a child trapped under three sliding glass doors. Breitigan was able to lift the doors and free the child.

Six months later, Breitigan overheard a call of a female bleeding profusely from the leg. He responded quickly to the residence, saw she was in critical condition, quickly applied a tourniquet and likely saved the woman's life.

Also in 2023, Breitigan solved a case concerning a Facebook purchase of a camper using counterfeit money. He recovered the camper quickly and was able to develop a successful case. He also assisted in an internet scam investigation which resulted from the theft of more than $250,000 from an area resident. A sting was launched in conjunction with the FBI, which led to the arrest of multiple scammers.

He is a 2010 graduate of Elida High School.

Also nominated for the Summerville Award this year were:

—Trooper Brandon Schreiber, of the Lima State Highway Patrol.

—Deputy Damian Tibbs, of the Allen County Sheriff's Office.

—Investigator Aaron Montgomery, of the Lima Police Department.