Van Alstyne police officer Brandon Blair was honored on May 21 for "outstanding achievement and dedication to the maintenance of law and order" by Sons of the American Revolution.
To know Blair’s backstory is to realize how truly deserving this officer was in receiving the award.
Blair was a young officer when he joined the Tom Bean Police Department just a few years ago. He was in his first couple of years on duty when he discovered corruption within the department. It came to Blair’s attention that Tom Bean’s then-police chief Michael Webster was involved in illegal activity, namely the illegal selling of firearms and the tasing of a fellow Tom Bean police officer. Webster has been accused of tasing one of his own officers and stealing and selling firearms from the Tom Bean Police evidence safe. The Texas Rangers took over the case and Webster was arrested and is set to go to trial on the felony charges on July 7.
At the time this came to his attention Blair sought advice from Tom Bean resident and respected law enforcement officer John Hunt, who counseled the young officer on how to come forward with what he knew. Blair and fellow officer Kenneth Steelman then met with Tom Bean Mayor Sherry Howard to voice their concerns. Blair and Steelman and the rest of the department (seven officers in total) later appeared before the Tom Bean City Council with a "vote of no confidence" in their chief, basically stating that the officers no longer believed in their chief and refused to work underneath him.
"It was a lot of pressure, all you can imagine," said Blair. "Some law enforcement officers are intimidated by another officer doing something illegal. Sometimes those things go unnoticed or unreported; we decided to report it."
Council voted to release Webster from duty. Hunt then took over temporarily as chief while the department got its house in order.
"He [Hunt] helped me through the most stressful time of my law enforcement career," said Blair. "Going home with that burden on my shoulders…at the time I was only 22, 23 years old. He helped me, he didn’t have to."
It was Hunt who nominated both Blair and Steelman for the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) honors and it was Hunt who delivered the news of the award to Blair one night in Van Alstyne. For Blair, a career-changing decision turned out for the best as Tom Bean’s department found its way and Blair found his way to VAPD, the department he had originally applied for and the place where he wanted to serve.
So it was then on the one-year anniversary of his employment by VAPD that Blair, along with Steelman and joined by Hunt, accepted the Law Enforcement Commendation Medal from SAR, which presents the award only to an individual and only once to those who have performed an exceptional act or service beyond the normally expected. The medal and certificate were presented to Blair at the Denison Country Club, and his achievement will be mentioned at the 124th Annual Congress National convention in Greenville, S.C., in July.
"It’s an award I accept with great gratitude," said Blair. "But it’s nothing you want to go through in your law enforcement career as far as what we had to at that time."
VAPD Chief Tim Barnes made the trip to Denison with Blair to show his support.
"I’m proud that we have officers with Blair’s degree of integrity working for the department," said VAPD Chief Tim Barnes. "It shows where we want to be and the kind of officers we want here, those who have the ability to step up and do the right thing."