50 Years of Police Officer of the Year: One Historic Event, Four Different Perspectives

Since 1966, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has recognized one law enforcement officer – in a few cases multiple officers – who exemplified outstanding and heroic achievement. While the name of the award may have changed during that time, the honor has not. To celebrate 50 years of awardees, the IACP will be featuring in-depth stories about some of the past Police Officer of the Year winners.

Four United States Secret Service agents went to work on Monday, March 30, 1981 never expecting that they would be hailed heroes after saving the life of President Ronald Reagan during an assassination attempt.

TMcCarthySpecial Agent Timothy McCarthy
SA T. McCarthy started his career with the Secret Service in February 1972. On the afternoon of March 30, 1981, President Reagan was participating in a speaking engagement at the Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC. As they were leaving the event, T. McCarthy opened the rear door of the limousine to let in President Reagan when he heard a gunshot. When he turned towards the crowd, he was shot in the abdomen and fell to the ground. He was taken to the hospital and treated. SA T. McCarthy survived his wounds and became the Chief in Orland Park, Illinois, where he remains today.

ParrSpecial Agent in Charge Jerry Parr
SAIC Parr started his career with the Secret Service in October 1962. After President Reagan’s speaking event, he was walking to the President’s side when he heard a gunshot go off. He pushed President Reagan into the limousine, dove in behind him, and told the driver to leave. Once they were in the limousine, President Reagan said that his chest hurt. Parr directed the driver to the hospital. Once they arrived at the hospital, SAIC Parr stayed by President Reagan’s side. SAIC Parr retired as the Assistant Director of the Office of Protective Research in 1985 and passed away in October 2015.

ShaddickSpecial Agent Ray Shaddick
SA Shaddick started his career with the Secret Service in June 1968. As the others had, Shaddick heard a gunshot go off as President Reagan was about to enter his limousine. When he heard the pop, he pushed President Reagan and Parr into the limousine and notified the command post that shots were fired and there were injuries. He then got into the follow-up vehicle, and told the driver to follow the limousine where he met President Reagan and Parr at the hospital. Shaddick set up perimeter security and waited for more law enforcement personnel to show up. Some of SA Shaddick’s subsequent career assignments included serving as the Special Agent in Charge of the Honolulu Field Office and Presidential Protective Division, and the Assistant Director of the Office of Investigations and the Office of Inspection. He retired in 1998 as the Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Office.

DMcCarthySpecial Agent Dennis McCarthy
SA D. McCarthy started his career with the Secret Service in November 1964. In March 1981, he was serving as the Protective Intelligence Representative. After the event, D. McCarthy walked out of the hotel a few moments before the rest of the detail so he could stand near the crowd. He heard a shot go off and saw the assailant holding a gun. He approached the assailant and grabbed his head and wrist, but the assailant continued to pull the trigger. With the help of other law enforcement officials, D. McCarthy was eventually able to handcuff and arrest the assailant and rode with him to the Central Cell Block where he was booked. SA D. McCarthy retired from the Liaison Division in 1984 and passed away in 1993.

Final Diagram

After the incident was over, it was discovered that the assailant fired six rounds. One round hit SA T. McCarthy, one round hit Metropolitan Police Department (Washington, D.C.) Officer Thomas Delahanty, one round hit White House Press Secretary James Brady, and one round flew across the street. The last two rounds hit the armored vehicles, one of which ricocheted off the limousine and hit President Reagan in the chest. In a later interview, SAIC Parr stated,

“We must realize that two shots hit law enforcement people; two shots hit an armored vehicle, one hit Mr. Brady, and one went across the street, so out of those six shots fired, we had four basically defeated by the system; but in my opinion, I would have done nothing different.”

Due to their heroic actions, all four Secret Service Agents received the U.S. Secret Service Valor Award and were acknowledged as the Police Officers of the Year by the International Association of Chiefs of Police in 1981.

Do you know a police officer who should be nominated for Police Officer of the Year? Nominate them now! Applications are due Friday, July 15, 2016.

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