Rewarded for their daily sacrifices

June 01, 2023

Surviving a Fentanyl overdose on the job, sniffing out drugs and keeping schools safe. Each scenario describes area law enforcement officers who were honored for their work over the past year. The three officers and a K9 Officer were all honored at the 4th Pathways Awards Ceremony on Friday in Duncan. It was the annual Wichita Mountains Prevention Network and Pathways to a Healthier You event to honor those who risk their life or make the lives of others better because of the career they have chosen. Those honored were Chief Cory Faulk with the Comanche Police Department as Officer of the Year, K9 Ringo and his handler, Master Officer Nathan Hicks of the Duncan Police Department, and Velma-Alma School Resource Officer Matt Purnell.

In December, Chief Faulk was on a routine traffic stop when he was exposed to Fentanyl and immediately overdosed. The quick actions of emergency responders and emergency staff at Duncan Regional Hospital saved his life. Several doses of Narcan had to be administered to save him from death. Two days after leaving the hospital he was faced with two options, resign his commission and pursue a safer career or stay and fight the growing Fentanyl problem. Not only did he stay but he also stepped up to serve as interim Chief on his first day back on the job. He joined the CPD in 2016 and in March, he was officially sworn in as Chief.

During the last year, Chief Faulk updated all policies and procedures for the department to align with state and federal regulations. He secured a grant that provided bulletproof vests for all full-time and reserve officers. He has successfully managed a department that is short-staffed due to a declining workforce. Since his brush with death, he has been an advocate for education and preventative resources. His story has been shared across the state both as an encouragement but also an opportunity for training.

The 2023 K9 of the Year went to K9 Ringo and his handler, Master Officer Nathan Hicks of the Duncan Police Department. Ringo is a 5-year-old dual-purpose Dutch Shepherd. He and Hicks have been partners since November 2019, after completing Canine Handler School at Canines Unlimited of Tulsa. They received this year’s award for going above and beyond in their work in narcotics detection and apprehension. K9 Ringo’s first successful track which resulted in an arrest happened in September 2020. In 2022, he assisted the District 6 Narcotic and Violent Crime Task Force and seized more than a pound of methamphetamine in two traffic stops. K9 Ringo has also made other arrests for everything from simple possession of a controlled dangerous substance to drug paraphernalia and more. During his duties, he also assists in clearing buildings and being deployed to gain compliance (in other words, getting the suspect until his partner Hicks can handcuff the individual). Hicks is a Field Training Officer who has trained many recruits. K9 Ringo also visits elementary schools and Boy and Girl Scout groups.

Deputy Matt Purnell received the 2023 Care Award for his dedication as a School Resource Officer for Velma-Alma Public Schools. It was his first year serving in that role at Velma-Alma. “Deputy Matt” as the students refer to him goes above and beyond in his capacity as SRO. He has become highly respected not only in the school system, but in the entire community. He stands at the front door of the elementary school every morning and greets the students with a high five and words of encouragement and is always available for the students and faculty alike. He has written safety protocols and is always planning new ways to make the school as safe as possible. Deputy Purnell is committed to providing a safe environment for the students at Velma Alma Schools.

The Care Award goes to an officer, trooper, deputy, or reserve that has shown excellence in engaging youth and community members in making healthy choices; participating in educational programs; and has success in prevention and enforcement efforts.

OPA Award Badge
OPA Award Badge
OPA Award Badge