ROCK ISLAND — Pat Richter and Anthony Schooley will be named Rock Island's Police Officer and Firefighter of the Year at the 40th annual Rock Island Civic Awards Night that will take place Sunday, June 9, at the downtown Holiday Inn.
The recipients are chosen by the other members of their departments based on examples of outstanding service.
The event is sponsored by the Rock Island Knights of Columbus.
When someone else might have kept going, Richter saw the distraught woman in his rearview mirror and turned around, Rock Island Police Chief Jeff VenHuizen said.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services had removed children from a home, and Richter had escorted the state officials there, the chief said. When the process was over and the police and DCFS officials were leaving, Richter saw the upset woman, the children’s mother, and stayed to provide what comfort he could.
“While it was in the children's best interest to remove them from their living environment, Officer Richter recognized that sometimes things spiral beyond a person's control, along with the importance of empathy towards a fellow human being,” VenHuizen said.
Richter said he decided to join the police force while he was a student at St. Ambrose University in Davenport. Some of his friends were already officers and were telling stories about their experiences on the force.
He did not like crime and wanted to help people, Richter said. He already had an interest in criminal justice, and it was part of his studies.
“I thought it would be a very rewarding profession,” Richter said.
Richter said his primary job has been patrolling the streets. He also has served on the tactical team, as a bicycle officer, and as a field training officer. FTOs are responsible for helping new officers when they start with the department.
The most challenging part of being a police officer is being prepared for all the things that officers can experience, he said.
The best part, he said, is being able to reach out to children who are experiencing something traumatic.
“You can do something for them, and you realize you may have made a difference to them,” he said.
He said his nomination and selection for the award by his colleagues was an honor, and he thanked them for it.
Richter added that the Rock Island Police Department is a team doing a tough job.
“In my opinion, I think we all deserve it, and I am honored representing everyone,” he said.
The interaction with the distraught woman was just one of the reasons Richter was nominated, VenHuizen said.
Richter’s nomination was also the result of his thorough criminal investigations, his work to prevent motorists from disregarding school bus stop warnings, and his positive attitude with the public and his colleagues, the chief said.
“Pat always puts forth extra efforts to solve problems and has shown great dedication to the department and citizens of Rock Island,” VenHuizen said.
Schooley is always learning about being a firefighter, said Rock Island Fire Chief Jeff Yerkey. If a class or training session is offered, he will take it to better himself and the Rock Island Fire Department.
“Because of this, Schooley is extremely proficient in his duties as a firefighter and a paramedic," Yerkey said, adding that Schooley performs his duties with professionalism, caring and compassion.
Schooley was a civilian medic for six years before joining the Rock Island Fire Department. Being a firefighter is something he has wanted to do since he was in high school.
“It’s a physically demanding job,” Schooley said. “It kind of puts you in a position to help people.”
The best part is that opportunity to help others, but the job also is rewarding in other ways, he said. There is a lot of camaraderie among firefighters.
The challenge is being away from loved ones, he said.
“It’s a stressful job,” Schooley said. “You spend long hours away from your family.”
The bulk of his workdays are spent being part of an ambulance crew based in the department’s central station, but he sometimes gets the chance to ride other equipment and has fought fires, Schooley said.
Winning the award is a nice experience, he said, but he added that firefighters are generally pretty humble and don’t like the spotlight too much.
“I wholeheartedly appreciate it,” he said of the award.
Yerkey said Schooley is always eager to accept other responsibilities. He serves on committees, volunteers for the charities getting attention from the firefighters’ union, and also serves as a child car-seat technician.
“Schooley is an excellent role model for our younger members, as well as the paramedic students who ride with us,” Yerkey said. “He takes the time to mentor, coach and counsel them so that they are performing at a high level.”