The Loganville Police Department School Resource Officer division can now claim to be No. 1 - in the nation that is.

The National Association of School Resource Officers last week named the LPDSRO division its 2010 Model Agency. This award is given annually to the law enforcement agency which has "shown excellence in several areas while implementing or maintaining a model school resource officer program," according to a press release. "Past recipients have shown a willingness to be proactive in their training, comprehensive in their policies, demonstrated excellence in their daily operation, and have brought recognition for the SRO program in their immediate area."

Past winners include SRO programs from the Sacramento, Calif. police department, the Tucson, Ariz. police department, the Broward Co., Fla., sheriff's office and the Sioux Falls, S.D., police department.

The LPDSRO division, headed up by Lt. Joseph Cantrell with fellow officers Sgt. Dustin Peterson and Bob Gilbert, serves the Loganville city schools in the Walton County Public Schools system. Last year the LPDSRO unit was nationally recognized, receiving an Exemplary School Safety Program award by the School Safety Advocacy Council for the tip reward program. The program was credited with identifying a student on campus with a gun in 2009. Cantrell also was named 2009 Tribune Unsung Hero for his dedication and work with local youth.

Dr. Richard Caster, executive director of NASRO, notified Cantrell of the unit's win and told him there were many worthy nominations, but the LPD's agency's tremendous accomplishments stood out to the committee.

"Your program is indeed a shining example of the school resource officer program," Caster wrote.

"We are extremely honored and humbled to have our unit recognized on the national level for the job we do. We aren't in this line of work for recognition - we're here to try to make a difference in the lives of the students we serve. But to have the national organization of school resource officers acknowledge and recognize what we are accomplishing is very gratifying," Cantrell said, adding, "I am fortunate to have two very effective co-workers, (Peterson) and (Gilbert). I feel they both are two of the best SROs in the nation and exemplify the true essence of a school resource officer."

Cantrell said the unit's success also could be attributed to the support it received from LPD chief Mike McHugh and WCPS Superintendent Gary Hobbs.

"Their unwavering support has allowed us to deliver dozens of powerful and effective programs to the community such as (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), (Gang Resistance Education and Training), youth tobacco prevention program, bullying prevention program, youth life skills training, teen driving safety, youth police explorers, junior officer program, bike patrol, truancy prevention and community safety presentations," Cantrell said.

McHugh said he was "very excited" for the SRO unit to receive national recognition for the program.

"These guys have proven themselves to be innovative, progressive and are constantly looking for ways to bring new ideas into play," McHugh said. "Their programs lead to positive interaction with our community's youth which is as vital as protecting them."

The SROs themselves believe the award will enable the unit to expand its reach and help improve student safety outside the local area.

"We've already been able to assist other SRO units within the state with the implementation of the successful, proven, powerful and effective programs that we've created," Peterson said. "Now, with the Model Agency award and national recognition from NASRO, we will be able to assist agencies across the nation."

The LPD SRO unit was formed in June 2006. The three officers serving Loganville High School and its feeder schools within the Loganville city limits broke away from the Walton County Sheriff's Office and were brought under the jurisdiction of the LPD.

The unit will receive the 2010 Model Agency Award in August at the NASRO convention in Louisville, Ky.

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