Every time he walks under the banner that hangs on his office door, reading “Officer of the Year, Hero for Life,” he smiles.
The students at his school decorated it for him.
“That was really nice of them,” Garner Police Officer Kevan Anderson said, walking into his office.
Anderson, 32, a school resource officer at East Garner Middle School and father of two young girls – a three-year-old and a one-year-old – won Officer of the Year award for his service with the department. His peers voted for him.
He was nominated one other time three years ago but was not chosen.
“It’s a pretty big honor for them to say you are the one who best represents the Garner Police Department this year,” Anderson said. “It may not mean that much to other people but to me it’s a huge honor. It gives you that desire to go out and do even better.”
Anderson has been with the Garner Police Department since 2009, the last year serving as a school resource officer. He previously worked as an officer at N.C. State. Anderson is also an officer in the department’s Police Athletic Association League (PAAL) and leads the effort in the GPD in raising money for the N.C. Special Olympics.
But what many say makes Anderson officer of the year, isn’t that he arrests the most criminals or finds the most drugs.
It’s his ability to connect with the people on a personal level.
Throughout the school day as Anderson walked down the halls, someone would tell him congratulations for his award. Students would walk up to him and speak or give him a high-five. Anderson knew almost every student by name, and if he didn’t, he tried to learn it.
Anderson made his daily visit to two special education classes. When he walked into the classroom, the faces on the children lit up. “Officer!” they yelled excitedly.
In one class they presented him a banner that said “Congratulations Officer Anderson, from your special friends.” It was signed by each student.
In the other class, he said one kid was being a “sneaky snake,” which was followed by an eruption of laughter.
Around lunch time, there were more high fives going around. Students ran up to show him their grades and he told them he was proud of them.
“He constantly holds the students accountable for their grades,” Carla Hoffman, 8th grade assistant principal said. “Students don’t want to disappoint him.”
When some students said they had been in trouble in class, he tries to work through the problem with them, asking them how should they have approached the situation differently. Then he told them he had faith in them that they could do better.
“Officer Kevan Anderson is very deserving of his peer recognition as the GPD ‘Officer of the Year,’” police Chief Brandon Zuidema said. “He is an outstanding officer that consistently demonstrates commitment, integrity, and professionalism. Kevan is respected by his peers as an informal leader, a team player, and someone they can trust to ‘do the right thing.’
“I am extremely proud of Kevan; he is a role model for the students and the adults he works with and is making a positive difference for the Garner community.”
Integrity and respect
Anderson said those two characteristics are part of his philosophy. That’s how he approached his job when he worked at Chick-fil-A, and that’s how he approaches his job as an officer. It’s how he approaches life.
“I want to try my hardest to make everybody feel like they are special and make everybody feel that there is somebody out there that cares about them,” Anderson said. “There’s enough people in the world putting others down, telling you you’re not worth anything, and telling you you’re not going to make it. I just feel like there’s not enough people out there saying it’s going to be OK, you’re going to do great things and we’re going to work through it together.”
So whenever students have problems they tend to come to him.
He said the small things are what make his job worth while. He said he enjoys hearing the small thank you’s and enjoys being the safehaven for the students.
From students to faculty, all in the school think highly of him. Just ask East Garner Principal Elena Ashburn.
“The thing that makes him so exceptional is that he really loves and cares for students and he cares for kids,” she said. “He comes here every day and sees it as a service to the community and a service to the kids he serves. He does not come here to be a police officer. He comes here to be someone who is a support to the kids when they need him.”
Ashburn said she wasn’t surprised Anderson won the award.
“Oh no. No. I knew from the moment that I met him that he was exceptional and that he is someone that is just such an asset to not just to East Garner but to the community,” she said.