DPS Employees Receive Badge of Excellence


Badge of Excellence awards were bestowed on 14 Department of Public Safety employees at a ceremony Jan. 21 held at the Joint Force Headquarters.

DPS Secretary Frank Perry commended the work of the employees and quoted Aristotle on the meaning of excellence, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

“Today, we do not honor only their outstanding contributions,” Perry said, “but also a fantastic group of individuals whose very nature is to be excellent in what they do.”

The Department of Public Safety’s mission is to improve the quality of life for North Carolinians by reducing crime and enhancing public safety.

“In doing this, we are charged to prevent, protect, and prepare,” Perry said. “With Governor McCrory’s full support, we have been implementing and building on our intelligence-based initiatives to prevent crime rather than react to it.”

The 14 employees were recognized for their accomplishments in the categories of human relations, heroism, innovation and efficiency, outstanding achievement and performance, public service and safety.

"I commend the men and women in this Department who do even more than they are asked to do, not because they have to but because that is who they are,” Perry said. “Badge of Excellence recipients can’t go unnoticed because they succeed and flourish.”

The recipients are as follows:

Human Relations

Lt. Aaron Back – State Highway Patrol, Raleigh
Lt. Back is the State Highway Patrol’s Special Projects manager. He was instrumental in setting up the North Carolina Law Enforcement Assistance Program, NC-LEAP in 2012. Twice a year he coordinates and leads a powerful three-day peer-to-peer seminar that has proven to be life changing, and for some, life-saving. The Post Critical Incident seminars are open to all law enforcement, correctional officers, telecommunicators, emergency medical personnel and firefighters who have experienced mental trauma or debilitating stressors. Lt. Back travels nationally on behalf of LEAP to help other states set up similar programs. Individuals who go through the program are given the tools to deal with their trauma or crisis and to become productive members of their organization once again. Lt. Back has pushed to keep this program going so that first responders have a way to deal with their trauma.

Innovation and Efficiency

Mary Beth Carroll – Adult Correction
Serving as the Operations Manager for NCDPS Prison’s Triangle Region Office, Carroll has helped make the prison system in North Carolina more efficient. She developed the Correspondence Tracking System which manages and tracks correspondence at every level. With the assistance of the Management Information Systems section, Carroll’s vision became an effective and successful reality. Her innovation resulted in a user-friendly web-based system adopted by other sections of NCDPS for quick, internal communication. Additionally, Carroll is responsible for signing six community college consortium agreements; increasing efficiencies within the Holiday Package Program; designing and developing the Inmate Visitation Policy as well as helping the department earn accreditation from the American Correctional Association.

Tameka EppsShawn HarrisLarry HugginsDawn LeeJanice McLean, the NCDPS/Prisons Medicaid Program Team, Raleigh
In execution of their task, and in compliance with federal and state regulations, this creative team developed protocols that require hospitals and other medical providers to bill Medicaid for inmates who are eligible. The NCDPS Medicaid Program team worked together to save the Department more than 12 million dollars in 2015. This successful innovative policy approach is now being implemented by many other states. The internationally renowned Pew Charitable Trust has also cited the North Carolina’s program as one of the best in the nation. The program has been highlighted in numerous publications including USA Today.

Outstanding Achievement and Performance

Shalita Forrest – Juvenile Justice/Cumberland Regional Juvenile Detention Center, Fayetteville
Shalita Forrest works at the Cumberland Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Since joining the Center in 2009, she has proven time and time again to be an exemplary employee, highly motivated with demonstrated leadership qualities. In the facility’s annual Peer Review Audit, the team, led by Forrest, achieved the outstanding score of Excellent. Forrest does more than is asked of her, working to implement best medical practices and training the staff on proper detention policies. She serves as a member of the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Committee and continuously strives to gain additional knowledge about the dangers facing these minors. Forrest also teaches first aid to staff members and is lauded for her integrity and work ethic.

Eddie K. Johnson – ALE, Edenton
In conjunction with the FBI, Special Agent Johnson serves as a Task Force Officer in the Joint Terrorism Task Force. This year, during an investigation of a multi-million dollar criminal enterprise relating to the ABC Commission, Special Agent Johnson successfully identified and located a suspect wanted for homicide of a U.S. citizen overseas. While this fell beyond his typical duties, Johnson was proactive in his approach, alerting the FBI’s Washington Field Office about the suspect. He also worked with the FBI, DOJ and Office of International Affairs to successfully apprehend this suspect.

Tonya Sconyers – Probation/Parole, Raleigh
Tonya Sconyers serves as an investigator with the joint FBI Task Force and NCDPS Special Operations and Intelligence Unit, and is a credentialed agent with the FBI. She is active in securing the arrest of DPS absconders and escapees. She created and implemented an adult correction escape initiative which has led to the arrests of 30 escapees, many of whom escaped decades ago. Through this successful initiative, DPS has been able to incarcerate 15 inmates who were using different names not connected to NC record; remove 12 deceased inmates names who were listed as at-large fugitives; capture two who were living under an alias and had new lives and manufactured histories; and closed one case in the best interest of the state. Sconyers was also instrumental in the successful implementation of Operation Rockfish which netted more than 13 compromised law enforcement personnel, thereby safeguarding the dignity of law enforcement while advancing the agency’s core mission. Her keen awareness of the need of public safety continues to benefit the citizens of North Carolina.

Public Service

Wilbert Darcus, III – DPS Administration/Adult Correction, Raleigh
Darcus is recognized for his dedication and diligence demonstrated in his administrative support roles within the Department of Public Safety. As the executive assistant to the director of Prisons, Darcus effectively used the CTS networking tool to monitor the efficiency of all administrative support functions; distribute, scan and track all incoming correspondence, as well as assist in the successful implementation of special projects for the director of Prisons and his staff. Now serving as a communications assistant with NCDPS Administration, his wealth of experience is demonstrated in his professional and courteous interaction with staff, government officials, inmate families and the general public. Darcus is known for his hard work and desire to help others even when he is not on the clock.

Semra Leary – National Guard – JFHQ, Raleigh
Sgt. 1st Class Semra Leary processes all requests for N.C. National Guard support, among many other roles. In her role as NCNG Outreach Coordinator, SFC Leary has shown a commitment to her work through the effective completion of assigned tasks as well as coordinating more than 100 successful community relations events in the past year. SFC Leary serves as a volunteer with several non-profit organizations, including the U.S. Veterans Corp and the Soldiers and Airmen Assistance Fund. She is known to regularly exceed anything she is asked to do – going above and beyond the call of duty.


Travis Washburn – State Highway Patrol, McDowell County
Trooper Washburn honors his duty to protect the public in every way possible. On February 26th, Washburn responded to what was first identified as a routine call to assist a pedestrian in need. While in route, he learned that the pedestrian was actually a gunshot victim. When he got to the victim, he noticed the amount of blood loss from the victim’s right leg. Trooper Washburn fetched his medical blow out kit and with the assistance of two other law enforcement officers, applied a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. The paramedics had time to get to the scene and take the victim to a medical facility. The responding paramedics later stated that because of the location of the wound, had Trooper Washburn not applied a tourniquet, the victim likely would not have survived.


Felicia Jones and Kenyadia McLaurin – Pasquotank Correctional Institution, Elizabeth City Felicia Jones and Kenyadia McLaurin are correctional officers at Pasquotank Correctional Institution. Carrying out their duties on March 13th 2015, both officers acted with great bravery during an altercation with inmates. While attempting to secure a cell, Jones was struck in the head by a male inmate, and when McLaurin pushed the inmate off of her, he turned on McLaurin and began striking her with both fists. When Jones pulled out her baton, another inmate pulled it away from her and began attacking her with it. Officers Jones and McLaurin were able to fend off the attack from the large inmates until more help arrived, never opting to run, each knowing what could happen to the other if one did. Both officers are clear portraits of heroines.

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