WAHOO – Saunders County Deputy Chris Lichtenberg has been serving communities both in and out of law enforcement and he continues to be recognized for his passion for helping others.
This past weekend in Kearney he was honored by the American Legion as the 2019 American Legion Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.
According to Brent Hagel-Pitt, assistant adjutant, Department of Nebraska, the American Legion, there were six other law enforcement officers that met the criteria and were submitted for selection.
“The goal of this program is to select a well-rounded law enforcement officer who has exceeded, above and beyond, the duty requirements expected of his or her position and has demonstrated a distinct pattern of community service coupled with professional achievement,” Hagel-Pitt said. “A major secondary purpose is to promote the public trust and support of our law enforcement agencies and officers.”
To be eligible for consideration, candidate must be a citizen of the United States, a living, active, full-time, paid and sworn law enforcement officer. They must be assigned to, or fully recognized by a county, district or state police or highway patrol, sheriff’s office, or as a sworn federal law enforcement officer like the FBI.
Initially hired by the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office in 2001 and then hired by Saunders County in 2006 as a part-time deputy, Lichtenberg was promoted to full-time deputy in October of 2017.
Being a law enforcement officer is something Lichtenberg comes by naturally.
“I have been interested in the law enforcement profession since a pretty young age,” Lichtenberg said. “My dad was a Nebraska State Trooper,” he said.
Lichtenberg is Saunders County’s field-training officer, range officer and Taser instructor. In addition, he has helped develop the current curriculum for the Taser program, all while fulfilling his duties of a full-time road patrol deputy for the department. Among other training, he attended Management Training at the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center in April 2016.
Saunders County Sheriff Kevin Stukenholtz said he has a lot of employees who serve the community by volunteering with fire departments, as coaches and mentor and serve on committees and boards like Lichtenberg.
“Deputy Lichtenberg is a great example of all those things and we are grateful to the American Legion for their support and for recognizing Chris for his dedication and service,” Stukenholtz said.
Last February, Lichtenberg received the 2018 Officer of the Year award from the Saunders County Sheriff’s Office and was presented with an Outstanding Attendance Award because he only missed one day of work the entire year.
Lichtenberg’s heroics are not limited to an “on the clock” mentality, however.
In January of last year, Stukenholtz became aware that another deputy needed help with an individual who was actively resisting arrest and had injured the officer. A “help an officer” call went out and law enforcement officers from multiple agencies responded.
“Deputy Lichtenberg proceeded to the scene in his personal vehicle and was the first to arrive,” Stukenholz said. “He was able to assist the deputy in making the arrest. The other deputy was treated and released from the hospital for injuries received in the altercation.”
Stukenholtz said during the flooding in March of 2019, Lichtenberg was involved in a river rescue while using his personal airboat.
Lichtenberg also helped search for a missing person while on his own personal time last July.
“He came in off-duty to volunteer his time to a large-scale citizen search that had been formed,” Stukenholtz said. “While volunteering his time searching, Chris was also a vital liaison between the sheriff’s office, fire department, Civil Air Patrol, citizen searchers, as well as the family of the missing female. Then in September he came in and used his personal drone in the apprehension of two burglary suspects.”
Monitoring and maintaining the Saunders County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page is something Lichtenberg has taken to another level.
“He initiated Fugitive Friday which is a vision that Chris had where two wanted individuals are featured each week on the department FB page with a description about their warrants,” Stukenholtz said. “Through a cooperative effort with the public, this has led to numerous apprehensions of wanted individuals. The Facebook page highlights positive department interactions with the public, general information, current crime trends, scams, and notices for missing citizens.”
During one high-profile missing person incident, the post that Lichtenberg wrote reached 584,605 people, the sheriff added.
In his down time, Lichtenberg is chief of police and chairman of the village board in Cedar Bluffs, where he resides. He has also been a member of the Cedar Bluffs Volunteer Fire Department for 20 years and currently holds the title of assistant chief.
As a deputy, Lichtenberg said he enjoys serving the residents of Saunders County and feels it’s a rewarding career knowing that he often makes a difference in individual’s lives. He feels humbled by his latest recognition.
“There are several officers across the state that probably deserves the same recognition,” he said. “Law enforcement is a team effort and I am very lucky to work at Saunders County where we have a great team of employees that make a difference every day. It means a lot to me that Sheriff Stukenholtz and Chief Deputy Coughlin felt I was deserving of this recognition and nominated me.”