Laurel Police Department Detective Adam Cheek, a seven-year veteran, took the next step in his law enforcement career as he was named Officer of the Year May 14 during the department's annual awards dinner at Partnership Hall in Laurel.
"It's an awesome feeling to have the recognition from my peers and the other officers I work with at the Laurel Police Department," Cheek said. "We have great officers who work with us. To have me chosen among all the officers is amazing because everybody there are great cops."
During the awards ceremony, Cheek said he was pleasantly surprised when he heard his name following the words "Officer of the Year," not just because of the honor, but because his family was in attendance.
"It was good for my son to see this," Cheek said. "Being an officer for seven years this June and a detective for four years, there will be times when we're home playing a game, I get a call and I have to go and he doesn't understand why."
Cheek also said it gave his son some perspective into his father's police work.
"It was good for him to see certain things officers have done and handled," Cheek said. "He even said later, 'Dad, you're awesome. You're amazing.' He had a better understanding of what the job entails and the sacrifice we have to make."
Cheek said many investigations require citizens to interact with police, some for the very first time.
"To intervene and help them receive justice is a rewarding feeling," Cheek said. "Trying to figure out who, what, when, where, how and why and put those pieces together to build up a case is what I really enjoy."
The closing of an investigation, however, makes it all worth it, the detective said.
"To see the victims' faces when you sit down with them and say, 'I know who did this. We're going to place them under arrest.' They think, 'Wow, someone did this for me.' "
Officer Michael Skidmore said he was proud of Cheek's accomplishment.
"We're close," Skidmore said. "We're both on the Honor Guard together, where we do various events around the city of Laurel. He's a great detective. Any time there's a question or any officer has an issue, he's always there. He's always available to help. I can't think of another officer who would be more suited for Officer of the Year."
Chief Richard McLaughlin agreed.
"He is the epitome of being dedicated and loyal to the agency," McLaughlin said. "He goes above what's expected. He's a go-to guy. He's worked a lot of cases. He's involved in a lot of different things."
Cheek was also presented a merit award for his work in a jurisdictional fraud case in May 2014.
"A group of people throughout the metropolitan area came to the city of Laurel ... basically scamming people, taking their credit card numbers to deposit fradulent checks," Cheek said.
The detective said the case went on for a while as officers completed an operation, leading to one man's arrest. Further investigation revealed the man was also involved in fraud in New York, Cheek said, so the detectives provided their offices with any helpful information. Multiple fraud cases in Washington, D.C., and Maryland were closed.
"It made me feel good, like in any case that I work," Cheek said. "You're able to come up with a result and bring someone to justice. You have to look for it. It's just not right there in front of you. You have to look under odd places."
Following his latest accomplishments, Cheek said he loves his career and he is ready for the next step.
"I love the people who I work with," Cheek said. "I want to continue doing what I'm doing and bringing justice to cases that I investigate and to become an even better detective than I am right now. I eventually would like to be a supervisor one day, but right now, I'm happy with the job that I have."
Unity Tour riders
Cheek, Skidmore and fellow Laurel police officers Don Winsted, Matthew Jordan and Erik Lynn participated in the 2015 Police Unity Tour this month, where they rode bicycles from Philadelphia to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., to honor officers who have died in the line of duty.
The Laurel officers left Philadelphia on May 9 and arrived in Washington, D.C., on May 12. Cheek said the roughly 221-mile ride was "challenging."
"It's a difficult ride, it's a fun ride," Cheek said.
Before the officers put their feet on the pedals, Cheek said, each officer had to raise almost $2,000 to offset expenses such as hotels, and to support the fallen officers memorial.
Family, friends and local businesses contributed to the officers' fundraising.
Along with Winsted and Cheek, Skidmore said it was his first time riding for the cause.
"It takes a lot in preparation," Skidmore said. "It takes a lot physically. … There are times when you're encouraging each other that you can make it. Just keep pushing on and, if somebody is having trouble, you're actually riding your bike next to somebody, helping them up the hill, physically.
Cheek said the reason behind the ride made it worthwhile.
"At one point, when we reached the memorial, it was overwhelming," he said. "There's a lot of emotion. You have people from the sidewalks rooting for you to come in. That night, at the candlelight vigil, you escort survivors of family members who died, wives, fathers, sons, daughters."
Cheek said families of deceased officers shared their stories as well as their appreciation for law enforcement.
"It's just an honor to be able to participate in something like this and meet these survivors whose family members have passed," Cheek said. "The quote that we wear on our jerseys is 'We ride for those who died.' A lot of us have officers who have fallen. We ride for those officers who we work with. Some officers just ride for an officer that they don't even know. They just want to ride for them and their family."
Skidmore said the ride is all about remembrance and support, making sure the sacrifice of those families is not forgotten.
"Being able to escort them to their seats [at the candlelight vigil] is the biggest part of the police unity tour," he said.