K-9 deputy earns honor

A deputy with the Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office has been recognized as the top law enforcement officer in the district by a district service organization.

K-9 Deputy Mike Peterson, who has been with the Sheriff’s Office full-time for 17 years was named “Law Enforcement Officer of the Year” for 2012-2013 for the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) District 2. He has served as K-9 officer for the Sheriff’s Office since 2006.

Peterson said the award was humbling.

“I always wanted to be a police officer, there was never any doubt,” Peterson said.

He said there was no specific moment in his life that led him down this career path, but it was something he always thought about.

“There are good days and bad days, but I am glad I did it,” Peterson said. “I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. It’s always something different and I enjoy all the people I work with.”

He said his favorite aspects of the job are working with the dogs, first Bandit and now Vegas, and patrolling.

Seven officers were nominated from the district for the honor and Peterson moved on to compete against the top officers in 12 districts throughout the state.

Frank Thomas, who serves as quartermaster for the St. Marys VFW Post 9289 and oversees the district level competition for “Law Enforcement Officer of the Year,” said the statewide competition came down to Peterson and a detective specializing in stopping sexual predators targeting children in North Olmstead.

“I have been told it was so close at the end it was almost like drawing straws,” Thomas said, adding that competition for the honor throughout the state was between some very good candidates.

He said they also have encouraged Peterson to continue to build his portfolio and apply again.

Thomas said it was that portfolio, which highlighted Peterson’s outstanding service and efforts toward drug enforcement, that made him stand out against other officers up for the award in the district.

In Thomas’s years in the VFW, he couldn’t think of another local law enforcement officer who had been recognized with the award.

“He (Peterson) is one of the best we have ever seen in the whole district,” Thomas said.

Auglaize County Sheriff Al Solomon, who nominated Peterson for the award, said he really appreciates all the extra time and effort the deputy has put in to researching, developing and implementing the county office’s first K-9 program.

“Since before it began, he has given his own time to the program,” the sheriff said, talking about Peterson’s role in fundraising to cover costs for a K-9, building kennels, training and getting out into the community with the dog for events.

“He really took an interest in it and you need someone like that to see it through and for it to really succeed,” Solomon said. “He has run a lot of criminals down and gotten a lot of drugs off the street.”

Solomon said he thinks so highly of the job Peterson does that he thinks he deserves top recognition in Ohio.

“He is very deserving,” Solomon said. “He put a lot of extra time into it, figuring out what we needed. There were a lot of things we didn’t know in the beginning. He takes care of the K-9 at his home and starts getting it used to kids, with his own kids at home.”

Prior to serving full-time with the Sheriff’s Office, Peterson, 39, who lives in rural St. Marys, served on the Sheriff’s Office auxiliary and worked part-time for the Spencerville Police Department.

He graduated from Memorial High School in 1992 and Lima Technical College’s Police Academy in 1994.

Peterson routinely works an 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift, but can be called out at any time by the Sheriff’s Office or other departments. Peterson and his K-9 also serve as part of the Auglaize County Special Response Team.

He has been married to his wife, Anna, for 16 years, and they have two teenage children, Katie and Jonathon.