Brian Kennedy named Officer of the Year

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, January 18, 2023

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LAPLACE — St. John the Baptist Parish Deputy Brian Kennedy was named the 2022 Officer of the Year for his major role in saving the life of a man who crashed into a canal on Longwood Court in LaPlace after experiencing medical distress while driving.

“It means a lot given that I just started my career six years ago and started patrol this year,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy was still in training when the incident occurred the afternoon of Monday, July 11, 2022. Kennedy was off duty and headed home at approximately 12:30 p.m. when he observed a vehicle traveling erratically on Fairway Drive in LaPlace. Kennedy momentarily lost sight of the vehicle, then watched as it crashed into a canal on Longwood Court.

“Originally, when I saw the car, I thought it was someone driving crazy, but when he went through an intersection and kept hitting more signs, I thought to myself, that’s not normal. When I saw the car in the ditch, at that point my training just kicked in. My priority was getting him out of the car,” Kennedy said.

Without hesitation, Kennedy and bystanders who had also witnessed the vehicle crash jumped into action. The doors of the vehicle were locked, but a bystander offered a window breaker that allowed Kennedy to successfully break the glass, reach into the vehicle, and unlock the door.

Kennedy noticed the male subject inside the vehicle was unconscious. He attempted to wake the driver with a tap on the shoulder. Receiving no response, he located a faint pulse, rescued the man from the vehicle, and carried him to the top of the embankment. The man’s face was now turning a deadly shade of blue, and Kennedy was unable to locate a pulse. He and one of the bystanders immediately began administering CPR until another deputy arrived on scene and took over. Fire services and EMS arrived shortly thereafter to continue lifesaving measures and transport the man to an area hospital, where he was treated and later released.

“This deputy’s prompt actions were instrumental in saving this man’s life,” said Jonathan Walker, the 2021 SJSO Officer of the Year recipient.

Sheriff Mike Tregre first presented the Officer of the Year concept during his first campaign for sheriff in 2011. At the end of each quarter in a calendar year, the command staff is asked to submit a written summary with recommendations of an officer who had gone above and beyond the call of duty in the previous three months.

“I felt it would be an opportunity to inspire deputies and let them know that their efforts do not go unnoticed,” Tregre said during the ninth annual award ceremony, held last week at the Lloyd B. Johnson Training Center in LaPlace. “Tonight, my vision continues to be a reality.”

Also honored during the ceremony were Officers of the Quarter Conrad Baker and Karanell Tassin.

Baker was recognized for demonstrating outstanding vigilance, teamwork and commitment in his role of assistant commander of technology. After Hurricane Ida damaged nearly 250 surveillance cameras, he worked tirelessly to get nearly all of the cameras back online. He was also able to secure a new state of the art First Net rapid deployment tower system for the St. John Sheriff’s Office. He has improved back-up radio capabilities and implemented features such as real-time tracking for officers’ safety and an improved tool for vehicle identification that has helped the SJSO identify 19 stolen vehicles since last February.

The Officer of the Fourth Quarter, Karanell Tassin, was recognized for her ability to quickly and effectively communicate with care and professionalism. Her calm demeanor helped her acquire a victim’s trust during a 911 call on December 15, 2022. A woman who was the victim of a home invasion called from inside her residence in LaPlace and stated that she was uncertain whether the perpetrator was still inside of the residence. The victim expressed after the incident that Tassin’s calm demeanor allowed her to also remain calm in a life-threatening situation.

The Unit Commendation Award was presented to the SWAT team, supervised by Captain Jake Boudreaux, for demonstrating outstanding response, actions, teamwork and professionalism over the past year.

“Over the last 12 months, the team has been instrumental in the reduction of crime in St. John Parish,” Captain Greg Baker said. “The team has removed more than 70 guns from the streets, some that were later discovered to have been used in violent crimes.”

Lifesaving awards were presented to Deputy Kennedy, Captain Boudreaux, and Sergeant Jonathan Walker. Boudreaux and Walker saved the life of a man who had sustained gunshot wounds to his right arm and chest after being shot by his wife inside of a LaPlace gas station in July 2022.

Boudreaux was also the recipient of the 2022 Sheriff’s Star Award.

The Officer of the Year ceremony featured a speech from motivational speaker Merlyna Valentine, a St. John resident who defied all expectations after becoming a quadruple amputee as a result of sepsis.

“Please don’t ever forget why you chose to live a life of service, why you chose to protect and to serve, why I am counting on you along with everyone in our community, why I believe in you and support you and want you to be successful and safe every single day. Never forget your why, because if you lose your why, you will lose your way,” she told the officers.

The sponsors for Officer of the Quarter and Officer of the Year were Tatje Insurance – Natalie Tatje, Enterprise Fleet Management Inc. – Dustin Hinds, The Flying Locksmiths – Alex Jones, Flynn Land Design – Harold and Toni Flynn, and Becnel Professional Buildings – The Honorable Mary Becnel.