For the second straight year, members of the northern Santa Barbara County law enforcement community were recognized and thanked at a special breakfast put on Wednesday morning by the North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center.

A few dozen officers, investigators and other representatives from several area agencies attended the breakfast, which was held at the St. Mary’s Episcopal Church dining hall in Mission Hills.

“We know that everything you do is often thankless, is exhausting beyond measure, keeps you away from those that you love long after your shift is over, and has you seeing and hearing things most of the world runs from,” Ann McCarty, executive director of the Rape Crisis Center, told the attendees.

“When it comes to responding to and investigating sexual assault and child abuse cases, we know that you often have to dig deep,” she added. “To each of you here today who have answered that call, and have done it with grace and composure, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

As part of the program, McCarty singled out a few individual officers to be recognized for the impact they made on victims over the past year.

These individual honorees included Lompoc Police Detective David Lamar, Santa Maria Police Officer Jose DeLeija and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office Detective Matt Fenske.

Each was given a heart-shaped plaque, though Lamar was the only one of the three who was there to accept the award himself. The awards for DeLeija and Fenske were accepted by supervisors from their respective departments.

In brief comments after accepting the plaque, Lamar noted that he doesn’t work alone.

“It’s very nice to be recognized as an individual, but we all know it’s a team effort,” he said. “So, I’d like to recognize the guys in my unit who also helped carry the burden that I carried.”

Among the other agencies represented at the breakfast were the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office, the California Highway Patrol and law enforcement representatives from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

During the breakfast, Rape Crisis Center officials also gave out and raffled off prizes, including gift cards and boxes of donuts. 

The mission of the Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center is to “reduce the incidence of and vulnerability to sexual assault and child abuse by providing education and prevention skills to community children and adults and to alleviate the trauma experienced by survivors of these crimes by providing direct services,” according to the organization’s website.

McCarty noted that that mission could not be achieved without the help of the law enforcement community.

“We appreciate each and every one of you,” she said. “Thank you so much for all that you do.”

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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