The Little Rock police officer who graduated at the top of his recruiting class last year was honored Thursday with an award named for an officer killed in the line of duty in 1980.
Officer Jeremy Palmer, a 31-year-old patrolman who has been on the streets about a year, was on hand to accept the Noel Don McGuire Award reflecting Palmer's class-leading 94 percent score.
The Little Rock Civitan Club presents the award each year.
At a ceremony Thursday at the MacArthur Museum of Military History, Little Rock Police Chief Stuart Thomas and Pulaski County Sheriff Doc Holladay congratulated Palmer on the honor and spoke about the award's history and McGuire.
Thomas graduated from the same class as McGuire and Holladay was his supervisor the night he was fatally shot by a pair of teenagers who had escaped from a youth lockup and were on a multistate crime rampage. Speaking to an audience that included Palmer, his wife and two sons and Civitan members, Holladay recounted going to McGuire's parents' home to relay the news of his death.
"I appreciate the fact that you all remember him," the sheriff said, his voice quivering with emotion and tears in his eyes, before looking to Palmer: "And congratulations to you, young man."
Palmer said he never set out to be tops in class, only to do his best in the rigorous coursework that precedes becoming a full-fledged officer. His overall score was derived from a 95.9 percent score in academics, 98.55 percent in firearms and 87.6 percent in physical fitness.
After shaking hands and posing for photos with Holladay and Thomas, Palmer returned to his seat. He smiled broadly while his 4-year-old son admired his award — a framed medal held by a purple ribbon — and his 2-year-old son played with the police-issue flashlight on his belt.
He called it "sobering" to hear all the details about McGuire's death but an honor to receive an award that helps pay tribute to his legacy.
"I knew that he'd been killed in the line of duty, but I didn't know exactly how," Palmer said. "It's very emotional. Because I've been in those situations where you're by yourself on a traffic stop.
"But it's also nice to see the chief and see the sheriff, to see men of their stature and how much they really care and how emotionally attached they are ... It just makes me more excited to do my job."