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Paducah police honor officers for often-unheralded successes

BY CORIANNE EGANcegan@paducahsun.com

In the world of policing, some stories never see the light of day. Those cases often involve the most dangerous of situations and require working through the underbelly of society to crack. 

For Paducah police detective Matthew Wentworth, those are the stories of his career.

Wentworth took home the Employee of the Year honor Friday night at the Paducah Police Department's annual awards ceremony. His nomination, read by Assistant Chief Brian Krueger, could have easily doubled as a true crime novel. Most of the anecdotes from Wentworth's long list of wins in 2013 are still sealed from the public's eyes, but one case mentioned Friday night involved taking down a corrupt firearms licensee who was providing weapons to criminals and biker gang members. 

In Krueger's nomination, Wentworth was lauded for his information sharing - something that is often strained between departments or with local and federal governments - and also for his patience, racking up piles of evidence that has led to indictments and convictions. As part of the department's Drug And Vice Enforcement unit, Wentworth oversees operations that range from climbing up drug trafficking ladders to partnering with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms on multistate stings.

Detective Jason Montgomery, a fellow DAVE unit member who had a case clearance rate of 97.6, and officer Michael Wentworth, who was noted for his strong leadership, were also nominated for the Employee of the Year award.

This year's Gary L. Reese Award, which honors leadership inside the department, went to Capt. Don Hodgson, who instituted the department's Traffic Enforcement Unit.

Hodgson has worked on state and national grants that help pay for the department's Don't Be In-Texticated program, which has traveled throughout the state and will be making a stop in Florida later this year. Hodgson also oversees the three-man TEU, which has been applauded for bringing down the number of city traffic accidents for the past two years.

The Chief's Award was given to not one but three officers this year - officers Christopher Bolton, Corey Willenborg and Beau Green - for their work with the department's Junior Citizens Police Academy program.

The JCPA was well received and brought in a younger audience to help encourage involvement in the police department. Willenborg and Green nominated Bolton, who spends off-duty time creating curriculum and activities for the class, but the award was given to the trio because both Willenborg and Green worked as hard to teach and design the class.

The department also handed out service commendations to 11 of its officers. The DAVE unit was again given accolades for its 2013 work, which included conducting 389 investigations and opening 153 cases.  The unit had a clearance rate of 92.1 percent.

The department's FLEX unit, which includes four officers who regularly change schedules to support the department as needed, also received a service commendation. That support ranges from serving search warrants to staffing the city's larger events to organizing impromptu basketball games with the area's young people.

The last service commendation was given to Officer Shawn Craven and his K-9 partner Huub. After officer Austin Guill's cruiser was T-boned and Guill was rushed to the hospital, the department went on a search for the man who injured one of their own. Craven and Huub used the scent from a discarded backpack to find Terry Murray, who was hiding in a dumpster and covered in trash bags.

Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652 or follow @CoriEgan on Twitter.

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