Barnsdall officer receives award from Grand Lake

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

BARTLESVILLE – In a ceremony June 9 at the Bartlesville police station, Barnsdall police officer Rick Harper received recognition from Grand Lake Mental Health Center as its 2021 Officer of the Year.

Grand Lake Mental Health Center also honored Tracy Roles, chief of the Bartlesville Police Department, as its 2021 Law Enforcement Administrator of the Year.

Grand Lake Mental Health Center serves a 12-county area in northeast Oklahoma. This is the first year for its law-enforcement awards program.

In prepared remarks regarding the achievements of the honorees, GLMHC said that Harper “has often gone above and beyond to help those in Barnsdall to seek mental health services and to recognize situations of crisis intervention.”

“He has often strengthened his department’s ability to support people with mental illness who have come to the attention of law enforcement,” Grand Lake Mental Health said of Harper.

GLMHC added that Harper has “helped adults and children get essential care, even while off duty.”

Roles was recognized for creating mental illness training for some 60 police officers and for promoting officer mental wellness.

Roles said the interest of law enforcement agencies in connecting citizens with mental challenges with organizations like GLMHC stems from a desire to make life better for people.

“I had no idea,” Harper said following the award presentation, explaining that he had been kept in the dark about the true reason for the trip to Bartlesville. He attended along with his police chief, John Ferguson, and Barnsdall Mayor Johnny Kelley.

Jim Warring, a retired Bartlesville police officer who is the law-enforcement engagement officer for GLMHC, praised Harper as someone who makes it easier for GLMHC to get services to persons with mental health difficulties.

“My job is made a lot easier by individuals like this,” Warring said. “Officer Harper, I don’t know how many times he’s called me.”

Harper, in turn, voiced his confidence in Warring, calling him “my go-to guy.”

“I think this is really kind of the future of how we get life a lot better,” Warring said, referring to the growing partnership between law enforcement and providers of mental health services. Grand Lake has championed an approach that allows officers to make contact with mental health professionals while in the field, in an attempt to avoid the escalation of officer encounters with troubled residents into violent conflicts.

Grand Lake Mental Health Center is a nonprofit. Larry Smith, its CEO, presented the awards.