Standing in front of 120 of his peers, friends and family just a few minutes after being named one of three officers of the year in the Billings area, Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Eric Winburn summed up how he views the award and the job of a law enforcement official in a few quick words.
"It is an honor," he said. "Law enforcement, it's to protect and and serve. That's our duty and responsibility."
Winburn, Billings Police Officer Brandon Ihde and Yellowstone County Sheriff's Deputy Nick Reyna were honored Tuesday at the Downtown Exchange Club's 55th annual National Crime Prevention Luncheon.
The event, held at the Crowne Plaza, honors representatives from the Billings-area law enforcement agencies for outstanding service each year.
"This is not only to recognize the accomplishments of these three officers here today," Mayor Tom Hanel said. "This is also to recognize the efforts of all law enforcement."
After running through Reyna's background — which includes 20 years with the U.S. Marine Corps before becoming a deputy, serving on the tactical response team and acting as a firearms and Montana Law Enforcement Academy instructor — Sheriff Mike Linder said that letters sent by peers nominating him for the award all had a common theme.
"The all contained the same words: character, integrity, loyalty and leadership," he said.
Reyna told the crowd that an old military buddy once told him that if he wanted to be successful, then he should surround himself with successful people.
He was quick to point to that statement when accepting the award, crediting his co-workers.
"I continue to surround myself with successful people so I can be successful," he said. "I couldn't work anywhere else because of these men and women."
Tops in traffic
Ihde is a five-year BPD veteran and works on its Selective Traffic Enforcement Program. Police Chief Rich St. John said that in 2012, Ihde made 89 drunken-driving arrests and wrote 818 moving violations, 906 nonmoving violations and more than 2,000 warnings.
"Officer Ihde has rewritten what the definition of a traffic officer is," St. John said.
Idhe also works or volunteers with Special Olympics Montana, Laurel Ambulance and the BPD's bicycle program.
"I appreciate the honor," he said. "A lot of it comes from the command giving us some freedom."
Winburn has been stationed at the Montana Highway Patrol's Hardin station in District IV — Big Horn, Carbon, Stillwater, Sweet Grass and Yellowstone Counties — during his 13 years with the MHP.
Capt. Keith Edgell said it's a tough area to work, and that he's often required to work with state and federal authorities on the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations.
"He's got a strong work ethic and is constantly generating some of the highest numbers in the district," he said.
The Exchange Club presented each honoree with a Glock handgun.
The club is a group that focuses on child abuse prevention and other service projects.