A deputy for the Saunders County Sheriff’s Office was recognized as the top law enforcement officer of the year by the American Legion Auxiliary.
Chris Lichtenberg was named the 2019 Nebraska American Legion Law Enforcement Officer of the Year at its Mid-Year Conference in Kearney on Saturday.
“Receiving this award from the Legion is very humbling to me,” Lichtenberg said. “I’m sure that there are several officers across the state that probably have done things that deserve it as well, and to be the one out of however many nominees they had and being the one that was chosen means a lot to me.”
The SCSO was also recognized with the award in 2015, with Sergeant Joe Smaus, then a deputy, said Chief Deputy Kyle Coughlin.
“We’re very proud that somebody from our office was recognized and awarded,” he said. “The American Legion is just a great partner with law enforcement.”
The award recognizes those who have “exceeded, above and beyond, the duty requirements expected of his/her position and has demonstrated a distinct pattern of community service coupled with professional achievement,” according to its application form.
Coughlin said Lichtenberg is a great representative of the department and thoroughly met all of the award’s requirements.
“He is a very proactive officer and he strives, like a lot of our deputies do, to be engaged with the community and to be a very well-rounded officer,” he said. “And this year, with some of the different things that he was involved in, off-duty as well as on-duty, it made him a great candidate for this officer of the year award.”
Lichtenberg started in law enforcement in 2001, working as a deputy for the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office before joining the SCSO as part time in 2006.
“I always wanted to work in the county that I lived and serve the citizens in the county where I reside,” he said. “And then looking to the future, I wanted to work myself up some ranks in the sheriff’s office and see what happened down the road.”
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Additionally, Lichtenberg is assistant chief of Cedar Bluffs Fire and Rescue, where he has volunteered for 25 years. He is also village chairman in Cedar Bluffs and chief of police for the Cedar Bluffs Police Department.
Some of Lichtenberg’s efforts the past year include assisting a deputy in arresting an intoxicated individual while off-duty, volunteering during the search of a missing female and using his personal drone to apprehend two burglary suspects.
“This type of award reaffirms the reason that I wanted to get into law enforcement and the reasons that I enjoy being part of the fire department in Cedar Bluffs as well, as far as serving people and helping out people in the worst time of their life, possibly,” he said. “So an award like this, it just reaffirms the reasons that I originally got into it, and it makes a person feel good that you’re recognized for some of those efforts.”
Both Lichtenberg and Coughlin said that with law enforcement, they aren’t looking for rewards for their work.
“Getting into law enforcement, you don’t do this job for the awards or the recognition,” Coughlin said. “But it’s nice to see when different affiliations do recognize those different things.”
Coughlin said he was proud of not only Lichtenberg, but all of the deputies at the sheriff’s office.
“They do an excellent job, and in this day and age, law enforcement is a difficult career,” he said. “We’re very thankful for all the deputies we have and all their hard work and dedication.”
Like Coughlin, Lichtenberg said he also appreciated the other deputies that work side-by-side with him.
“One person can’t make a department successful or not successful,” he said. “It’s a team effort.”