12/13/06 — Detention officer mixes duty with compassion

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Detention officer mixes duty with compassion

By Lee Williams
Published in News on December 13, 2006 1:45 PM

When Wayne County Detention Officer Barbara Cook offers a kind word, shoulder or a Bible to an inmate struggling with bouts of depression, she doesn't think she is doing anything special.

She's only doing what she envisions anyone in her position would do.

Ms. Cook processes inmates at the jail, and during her 12-year tenure, she has adopted a philosophy she personifies when dealing with her charges.

"Even though they've been arrested, they're still human," the 48-year-old said. "If you give a little respect, they will give you respect. Everybody makes mistakes."

Ms. Cook learned long ago that sometimes a kind word can encourage someone to turn his life around. That's why she will continue to inspire inmates to focus on the positive -- even in the midst of their troubles.

Ms. Cook's sense of compassion and strong work ethic earned her the Detention Officer of the Year award. One, out of 14 nominees, was chosen, said Beverly Deans, director of the Basic Law Enforcement Training Academy at Wayne Community College.

Wayne County Jail Administrator Capt. James Tadlock and Ms. Deans established the prize about three years ago to reward jail employees. Nods from superiors and fellow employees earned Ms. Cook the award.

"Her co-workers and some of her supervisors nominated her," Ms. Deans said. "Based on her letters and the nominations, the selection committee chose Ms. Cook for outstanding performance and exemplary service."

Tadlock, Ms. Deans and Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders presented the award to Ms. Cook in the company of about 50 people during a ceremony held Dec. 7 at the Wayne County Courthouse atrium.

Ms. Cook was shocked, but humbled by the award.

"We all worked very hard," Ms. Cook said. "Any one of us deserved the award."

Sgt. Cindy McCullen, a jail supervisor, agreed with the award selection committee's choice to pick Ms. Cook.

"I am very excited for her," Ms. McCullen said. "I think she's very deserving of it."

Winders said the Detention of the Year Award ceremony is an important event.

"We depend a lot on the Wayne County Detention Center," Winders said. "Many times, they don't get the glory that other divisions within the sheriff's office do, but their job is one of the most important there is. Once people are arrested they must go to jail, and the detention officers make sure the inmates are kept in care."

Winders said the work of the detention officers does not go unnoticed and he thanked them for their continued effort.

"They work to make sure the detention center continues to be rated one of the top 10 in the state," he said.