CLEARWATER — Lesa Phillips, a city police patrol officer with a long list of accomplishments and accolades on her resume, was lauded recently by Dunedin-Clearwater Elks Lodge 125 as its Officer of the Year.
The 10-year Clearwater Police Department veteran currently is assigned to the District III Patrol Division. Phillips also serves with several special tactical units as a patrol sex crimes investigator, SWAT hostage negotiator and a member of the Critical Incident Stress Management Team.
In addition to her busy work schedule, in her free time Phillips, an avid animal lover, volunteers for Paws for Friendship and Almost Home Rescue of Florida, and sits on the Sunshine State Jack Russell Terrier Club board of directors.
Sgt. Mike Ogliaruso nominated her for the award, which was supported by four commendations within the department and five from citizens outside the agency. Phillips received her award during a ceremony at the lodge on May 14.
“I was really surprised I was nominated,” she said. “Everything I do is regular day-to-day stuff.
“I pride myself on it, but I haven’t had any big cases or anything, so I was surprised people knew about the stuff I do on a day-to-day basis in the community.”
Though she downplayed her accomplishments, Ogliaruso made it clear why Phillips is deserving of the recognition.
“Ofc. Phillips is a professional police officer worthy of the accolades she receives,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Ofc. Phillips is focused on what is important to her, both professionally and in her personal life, and manages all of her activities seemingly with ease.”
Phillips said she loves her time on duty, helping people in Clearwater through her myriad roles within the department.
But her off-hours volunteer work helps balance the stress that comes with being a police officer, she said.
“Some of the things we deal with, seeing people doing harm to others, it’s draining and it saps the energy out of you,” she explained. “So the volunteer work takes the load off of whatever is on your mind, and I enjoy that aspect of it. It’s good for people in my profession to be able to get away from that stress.”
Of all the activities she’s involved in off the clock, Phillips said she enjoys working with Paws for Friendship the most.
A couple times a week she and Chloe, a 5-year-old spaniel/terrier mix, spend time with residents at assisted living facilities and help them during what can be a difficult time in their lives.
“The work I do for them is nearest to my heart,” Phillips said. “Chloe is a certified therapy dog, and she makes them laugh and brightens their day.
“It’s a drop in the bucket of my time, but it means so much to them. They are away from their families and have no pets. There’s such a loneliness there, and this is a way for me to do something positive for them.”
Phillips may be humble when it comes to her accomplishments, but she said she’s thankful her peers and people in the community value her efforts.
“I think I’ve had just an average career here, but it made me thankful that people appreciate what I do,” she said.
“I always try to do the best job I can do, and I don’t think I’m better than anybody else, so this is very humbling.”