Pettis County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. John Cline, a third-generation law enforcement officer who has been the resource officer for Sedalia School District 200 for eight years, has received this year’s Gene Darnell Excellence in Law Enforcement Award.
The award is presented annually to one officer by a group of experienced retired officers. It began in 2001 after the death of Darnell, founder of the Rural Missouri Major Case Squad. Darnell’s family set up the award to be given to an officer who best exemplifies all the things Darnell stood for.
Pettis County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Dave Keller, who worked with Darnell, nominated Cline for the honor. Remembering Darnell, Keller said: “He was the best interrogator we had. Other people would try to get answers out of (suspects) all day and have nothing. Five minutes with Gene and he’d have a confession. … He was just special.”
Keller said if anyone is deserving of the award it is Cline because sheriff’s department leaders know they can send him out to do any job and he’ll get it done right.
Sheriff Kevin Bond said Cline “is a good officer who does his job efficiently and honestly enjoys doing it.”
Cline said receiving the award was humbling and that his family was very proud of him.
“This award means a great deal to me,” Cline said. “The list of past recipients of this award contains the names of people that I admire and respect not only for their law enforcement abilities, but for their dedication to public service. It is truly an honor and a privilege to have my name placed on that list.”
Steve Triplett, Sedalia 200 assistant superintendent, said Cline is special because, “He lives life the way he talks about life. He’s a man of integrity, an honest, ethical man.”
The award has sentimental meaning to officers, especially those who knew Darnell and worked with him. While talking about Darnell and all the things he’d done, Keller became emotional. He got even more emotional while talking about Cline and how worthy he is to receive the award.
“The Sedalia district is lucky to have him, because I’m sure he’d lay down his life for any one of those kids,” Keller said. “Gene was special and so is Sgt. Cline.”
Rebecca Hall is a student at Smith-Cotton High School.