Two Rutherford County Sheriff’s patrol deputies earned top awards from the Tennessee Highway Safety Office Wednesday.
Deputy Austin Watson was named “Deputy of the Year” and was chosen as “Drug Recognition Expert of the Year for Middle Tennessee.” A drug recognition expert or drug recognition evaluator (DRE) is a law enforcement officer specifically trained to recognize impairment in drivers under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Deputy Ethan Shenefield earned the Speed Enforcement Award.
Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh commended Watson and Shenefield.
“Deputy Watson is dedicated to reducing traffic deaths and crashes through his enforcement efforts,” Fitzhugh said. “He reinforces the safety message through education of other law enforcement officers.
“Deputy Shenefield concentrates on encouraging drivers to obey the speed limits to prevent traffic deaths and crashes,” Fitzhugh said. “Speeding is one of the major contributing factors in crashes.”
State DRE Coordinator Tony Burnett said Tennessee has 270 DRE’s statewide with the goal of saving lives and preventing injury crashes.
Watson furthers his knowledge and ability as a drug recognition expert, Burnett said. He became an instructor and will assist with the Advance Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement training and eventually the DRE training.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Nick Coble, who nominated Watson for Deputy of the Year, said Watson’s main focus as a deputy have been geared toward impaired driving and traffic enforcement. He has earned two awards from the Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Watson helps instruct DUI classes at the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy for new police officers. He teaches new sheriff’s deputies about radar.
“Due to Deputy Watson's dedication to education, his removal of impaired drivers from the roadway and his commitment to traffic enforcement, he has earned my recommendation for Deputy of the Year,” Coble said.
Sgt. Michael Rodgers nominated Shenefield for the Speed Enforcement Award.
Shenefield issued 375 speeding warnings and citations and conducted 355 traffic stops this year.
“He has a passion for highway safety and focuses on speeding,” Rodgers said. “He is always one of the first to volunteer to help with any campaigns of safety hot spots.”