Justin Schulz, an alumnus who majored in criminal justice studies, recently received the 2020 Officer of the Year Award at his police department in Gulf Shores, Alabama which he joined after graduation.
While seeing it as an honor, Schulz said he wishes the award was able to be given to his squad as a whole instead of just him.
“I don’t want to accept awards solely for myself. Truly, the squad that I was on last year, we all played a great part in the calls for service and a lot of the high priority calls that led to more serious actions that needed to be taken,” Schulz said.
Schulz said one of the situations he thinks was a part of receiving this award was a life-saving event he was involved in.
“[An individual who was driving] suffered cardiac arrest, so I was the first person on the scene,” Schulz said. “He was extracted from the vehicle and life-saving procedures were given, and ultimately he’s here to live another day.”
Six months after the incident, Schulz said he was able to meet the person he saved.
“Those types of incidents, no words can describe that — no materialistic item [like] an award — but the highest award or anything you could receive is seeing that man being reunited with his family and being able to walk and live life,” Schulz said.
Kevin Cannon, chair of the Department of Criminal Justice, said he remembers Schulz well due to how outgoing he was.
“He was a very good student. His attendance was good, his work in class was good and he was a very nice kid outside of class. I remember talking to him a lot and he had a very lively personality,” Cannon said.
Schulz said many of the things he learned at SIUE were things he appreciated knowing before going into his career as a police officer.
“The professors definitely laid out a very strong foundation in terms of pushing and as far as [having] a background in law enforcement. The different courses that [were offered] helped pave the way until I got established with the department and then carried on that knowledge to the police academy,” Schulz said.
Gulf Shores Police Chief Edward Delmore said he’s known Schulz for almost eight years, and believes he is an exemplary police officer and field training officer.
“He’s one of the top performers of the department, and one has to be considered highly effective by our command staff in order to be placed in [the field training officer] position and retained in that position,” Delmore said.
Delmore said the award given to Schulz comes from a year-round selection process based on the top performing officer for each month.
“There are four patrol squads in the patrol division, and every month the watch commander, which is a command sergeant, is required to nominate one of their officers for Patrolman of the Month. Typically the officer that receives that award the most times in a 12 month period, in a calendar year, is then named the Officer of the Year,” Delmore said.
Schulz said he went on to join the GSPD soon after graduating to follow a family legacy of police officers, but there are various other reasons he enjoys his job.
“[I enjoy] the camaraderie, being close to your officers and truly trying to make a difference, but at the end of the day it’s being able [to make sure everyone gets] to go home safely — everyone, not just the officers, everyone who you interact with, who you have dealings with … it’s making sure everyone gets to walk home safely, and everyone one hundred percent goes home so we can answer that call the next day,” Schulz said.