A successful career in Howard County law enforcement wasn't always the plan for 34-year-old police Officer Candace Futrell, whose dream of becoming a professional basketball player came true with the Women's National Basketball Association in 2004.
Following her five-year basketball career, Futrell said she's found a new calling in police work, earning the Howard County Police Department's 2016 Officer of the Year award on April 11. Futrell received the award at the annual ceremony held at the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center at Howard Community College.
Before joining the county's police department in 2014, Futrell had worked as an officer with the local police department in Gainesville, Fla,. since 2012.
However, her admiration for basketball was found long before her days as a police officer.
"I've been playing basketball since I was a toddler," Futrell said.
She attended Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pa., on a full scholarship, where Futrell said she "worked my tail off and ended up getting drafted into the WNBA in 2004."
The basketball association's short seasons – only five months long – allowed Futrell to play in other leagues overseas, she said, including those in Israel, Turkey, France and Iceland. Futrell said she was injured during her second year playing overseas, and was cut from her WNBA team.
She continued to play basketball overseas until 2009, when she moved to Florida and found a position at the Department of Juvenile Justice in Gainesville.
"While working with that department, that's what piqued my interest in law enforcement," Futrell said. "We worked with the local police department on a number of occasions and just that interaction drew me in. It was a bit of a life transition."
After moving to Maryland a few years later, Futrell joined the Howard Police Department as a day-shift officer, working 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the southern district of Jessup and Laurel.
Law enforcement consists of a lot of administrative work, report writing, court appearances and follow-ups, she said, which she usually completes early in the morning. Despite the paperwork, Futrell said, every day on-call is still different.
"I may go to a call that I've never dealt with before and there's a challenge," Futrell said. "I may go to a call where people are so far and deep in a crisis that we can't rationalize with them. This entire job is a challenge. The challenges and unpredictability are what I enjoy most."
Although she hasn't been with the department for too long, Futrell said she's seen the strong relationship between the county police and the community. In a time of tension with law enforcement, she said, Howard County has grown into "one of the most supportive communities."
Police Chief Gary Gardner said Futrell's thorough investigations for the department have led to her success as a police officer, including her efforts to tackle distracted driving and engage with the community.
"She is involved in just about every one of our community programs today here in the county," Gardner said. "She's always there and very dedicated to serve our citizens here in Howard County, and I'm very proud of her."
Futrell said being named Officer of the Year was a humbling experience and an absolute honor.
"I enjoy my job, what I do and coming to work," Futrell said. "I try to do the best that I can and be the best that I can every day."
This year's award recipients also include Joan Cook, Civilian of the Year; Senior Dispatcher Kristin Harvey, Telecommunicator of the Year; Pfc. Raymond Peele, Detective of the Year; Pfc. Jason Hall, Community Service Award; Officer Brent Riddle, First Year Service Award; Pfc. Colin Morningstar, Scott Wheeler Traffic Safety Award; Auxiliary Officer Wilbert Krizmanich, Auxiliary Officer of the Year; Volunteer Mounted Patrol Officer Linda Reed, Volunteer Mounted Patrol Officer of the Year; Explorer Capt. Patrick Sweeney, Explorer of the Year; and Evelyn Corcoran, Animal Control Volunteer of the Year.