By Chris Umscheid
North Liberty Leader
IOWA CITY– In 1986 Kevin Kinney of Oxford joined the Johnson County sheriff’s office as a reserve deputy. Since then he has been a full-time deputy, became a detective and led the way in several high-profile cases.
Nearly 28 years later, Lieutenant Kevin Kinney has been recognized with an honor he’d never imagined.
Kinney was named the American Legion’s 2014 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year for the State of Iowa during a brief, surprise ceremony Friday, Feb. 7, at the sheriff’s office in Iowa City. While he was aware he’d been nominated, Kinney did not know he’d won the honor. Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek hatched a plot to keep the intrepid investigator in the dark, that is, until he and Kinney walked into the conference room to find family, friends, and the local media waiting for him.
“We had a closed-door meeting in my office so that everybody could funnel in and be here,” Pulkrabek said. “Coming down the hall, I kind of (felt) bad for Kevin,’” the sheriff said to the audience’s laughter. “But I feel good for him overall.”
Kinney was nominated by the Roy L. Chopek– Walter “Bud” Ott American Legion Post #17 in Iowa City through Sheriff’s Captain Joe Lalla, who told the audience a legion member on the department asked him to recommend a nominee.
“I immediately thought of Kevin,” Lalla said. “I couldn’t keep it a secret from him though.” Lalla had to ask Kinney about the many people he’d worked with over the years on numerous heroin, death and human trafficking cases as well as the school board and administration of the Clear Creek Amana school district where he sits– for the second time–on the board of directors.
“He’s always a great guy. He’s always willing to step up when there’s a need, and he never wants any personal accolades. He sees a need and he takes ahold of it, and he pursues it relentlessly,” Lalla said. “I couldn’t think of a more deserving candidate.”
Kinney was visibly moved and at a loss for words when asked him about receiving the award.
“I appreciate it, I’m very honored to accept this. It’s… very nice people think of you that way,” Kinney replied.
Gary Haman, former commander of Post 17, noted that Kinney is the second officer from Johnson County to earn the award. Last year, an officer with the Iowa City Police Department was nominated, and won. “That says a lot about our community and our officers we have in our community,” Haman said.
Pulkrabek’s comments to the nominating committee said a lot about Kinney as well.
“Many officers in my office do outstanding work for the citizens of Johnson County and the State of Iowa, but (Lieutenant Kinney) stands out among them. (He) is an exceptional leader.”
“I didn’t get into this job to receive awards,” Kinney said, “I got into this to help people.”
Kinney will be recognized at the legion’s state convention this summer in Coralville, and will receive a plaque at that time.