If Cpl. Candy Johnson wanted to brag about her accomplishments, there's plenty she could say.
Instead, the North Charleston police officer prefers to work. Work, after all, is how she earned her reputation within the department and now throughout South Carolina.
Johnson, a former Harlem resident, was named the state's Officer of the Year on July 18 by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Association. She was the first woman and the first North Charleston officer to receive the award in the association's more-than-60-year history.
"Anytime I can help somebody, that's a personal reward," Johnson said.
Not that she doesn't appreciate the recognition; she's just not one to brag.
Johnson is the daughter of Ronald P. Johnson, of Harlem, and Carolyn Kettelle, of Jeb, S.C. She lived in Harlem in the early 1970s before moving to South Carolina, and later graduated from North Charleston High School. She joined the police force in 1996 and began working as a North Charleston firefighter in 1990.
Johnson recently was promoted to corporal. An installation ceremony was to be held on Thursday.
When North Charleston police nominated Johnson for the award, they noted her performance on Sept. 30.
That afternoon, she rushed to the Ferndale mobile home park where a woman and her four children had been shot to death.
Cpl. Cathy Stanley arrived first and radioed a description of the main suspect, the slain woman's husband.
Johnson heard Stanley's broadcast and slowed as she drove into Ferndale in her marked cruiser. On Piedmont Avenue, she noticed the husband about to get into a car a few blocks from where the family was killed.
Johnson arrested him at gunpoint and recovered a handgun wrapped in a bundle inside the car. Michael Anthony Simmons was charged with five counts of murder and awaits trial.
"That was outstanding police work all the way around," Police Chief Jon Zumalt said. "That saved many, many, many work hours."
It was the kind of job Johnson has been doing every day for years, the chief said.
"She never complains," Zumalt said. "It's tough to get her to say much of anything. She's a good, humble worker, and we're very proud of her."
Before joining the patrol division, Johnson worked as a detective. In that role, she helped bring down a theft ring accused of taking more than $2 million in heavy construction equipment. The investigation drew in other agencies from the federal, state and local levels.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Association presented Johnson with the Officer of the Year award at the Francis Marion Hotel in Charleston.
Her mother, whom she called her biggest source of support, was in the audience.
It was hardly the first time Johnson has received public recognition. The Knights of Columbus named her North Charleston's Police Officer of the Year in 2000.
She gave a characteristically modest answer when asked why she makes a living running toward danger.
"I figure I could help people," she said, "so it's kind of in me, I guess."
The Evening Post Publishing Co.
Reprinted with permission
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