McLaughlin honored as one of state’s finest

It’s been an up-and-down year for Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin. But a recent recognition for the veteran chief definitely puts a positive spin on his professional life. McLaughlin was recently given a special runner-up award from the Delaware League of Local Governments, naming him one of the top two police chiefs in the state.

The recognition is almost a familiar one for McLaughlin, who was named Chief of the Year in the state by the DLLG in 2005, early in his tenure as the head of the Ocean View Police Department. But it was not something he was expecting to see the like of again this year, if ever.

“It’s really a once-in-a-career thing,” he said of winning the top award in 2005. “For me to win as a young chief was pretty amazing.”

While the DLLG doesn’t generally offer a runner-up award in its annual honor for police chiefs, it went out of its way to honor McLaughlin this year, based on a hefty sheaf of nominations, testimonials and praise from the people McLaughlin is charged to protect and from his peers.

“Ken McLaughlin devotes his professional life to ensuring our community is a safer place to live,” wrote Ocean View Councilman Bill Wichmann in nominating McLaughlin for the honor. “Ken is the quintessential illustration of the phrase ‘Actions speak louder than words.’”

State Rep. Gerald Hocker (R-38th) also gave support for McLaughlin’s nomination, writing, “The Town of Ocean View is fortunate to have this man as their chief of police, and he has always has the residents at heart. He has given the OVPD a No. 1 ranking among local municipalities and has been able to grow with the needs of the community.”

Former Mayor Gary Meredith heaped praise on McLaughlin, saying, “Chief McLaughlin has assembled a fine staff of officers and also a large group of volunteers to assist the police, the Citizens Auxiliary Patrol (CAP). This group of men and women save the town quite a lot in funding.

Meredith also noted McLaughlin’s attendance at a FBI training program earlier this year. “He finished at the top of his class. I understand that it is an honor to even be selected for this program.”

A long list of co-signing supporters accompanied the recommendation of Lord Baltimore Elementary School Principal Janet Hickman for McLaughlin’s nomination. Hickman said, “I have had the pleasure of knowing Chief McLaughlin for many years, and the words that best describe him are energetic, enthusiastic, dedicated, motivated and, most specifically, driven. Chief McLaughlin and his department have served an integral role as Lord Baltimore Elementary has focused to become a ‘safe’ school.”

“The chief and his staff frequent our building, eat lunch with students and volunteer within the school to instill in our students that the police are our friends and trustworthy for young students to rely upon,” Hickman noted, also referencing special efforts she said McLaughlin has taken at the school.

Those include working with the school’s most academically challenged students, helping to create extensive plans in the event of a catastrophic emergency involving the school, and ensuring he and his officers were available within minutes to assist with incidents involving “explosive students” whom the school’s staff, she said, was unable to manage.

Hickman further noted McLaughlin’s successful efforts to have the entirety of the school placed within his jurisdiction, rather than split between three. “I am forever thankful for this endeavor as both the principal and the mother of students who attend this school.”

Hickman’s recommendation is accompanied by no less than three dozen supporting signatures from teachers and staff at the school.

McLaughlin was also lauded by Lewes resident Earnest R. Swanson, a retired police chief from the Park Ridge Police Department in New Jersey and past president of the New York New Jersey, Connecticut Crime Council. Swanson consulted on the design for the town’s public safety building.

“Chief McLaughlin is a dedicated, honest, resourceful chief, well-known for his leadership and devotion to duty,” Swanson wrote. “He is a credit to the law enforcement community, and the people of Ocean View must be proud to have him as their chief of police.”

One proud citizen is Susie Lanuza, who also contributed recommendations to the DLLG, recalling an incident several years ago in which she had felt threatened and McLaughlin went above and beyond to assure her of her safety.

“The chief gave me his personal cell phone number to put in my cell phone. He told me that if at any time – day or night – I felt threatened in any way, for me to call him right away,” she wrote. “I told him that I didn’t think his wife would appreciate that, but he told me that she would certainly understand. He put both myself and my husband at ease. What other chief of police would have done that? He brought that small-town feeling out in a very big way.”

City of New Castle Police Chief Kevin P. McDerby also wrote to support McLaughlin’s nomination for the honor this year. “Not only is he held in high regard within the community as a person and a police officer, he is held in high regard within the Delaware Police Chief’s Council.”

McDerby also praised McLaughlin’s dedication to training. “He is always taking advantage of training opportunities for his personnel and himself that keeps his department on the cutting edge of the police profession. Chief McLaughlin is one of the few police chiefs in Delaware that is a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigations National Academy. That distinction not only brings honor to him as a police officer but to the community he serves.”

McDerby acknowledged the tribulations of McLaughlin’s job of late but emphasized his superiority in his field. “I am sure that Chief McLaughlin, like all chiefs, has a difficult time pleasing everyone. He probably has some critics,” he wrote. “People say that statues will never be erected to honor a critic. Statues are erected to honor heroes. Chief McLaughlin is your hometown hero.”

McLaughlin is a hero to many involved locally in the Special Olympics and received further praise from Special Olympics Delaware Executive Director Ann M. Grunert. Of her more than 4,000 volunteers, she said, “There are, of course, those few whose dedication, hard work and unbridled enthusiasm is awe-inspiring – and, for me, that person is Chief Ken McLaughlin.”

Wichmann also noted in his nomination, “In my view, if Ocean View was a sports team, Ken McLaughlin would be Ocean View’s most valuable player.” That echoed McLaughlin’s own take on the award this week, as he emphasized the work of his team of officers, relating his role to that of a coach on a pro baseball team.

“We’re successful as a team,” he said. “And I look on my job as being the leader of a great team.”