Local law enforcement officers will be dressed to the nines Thursday night at an event honoring excellence in law enforcement.

Officers within the 20th Judicial District, comprised of Faulkner, Van Buren and Searcy counties, will be recognized throughout the evening at the LEO Awards gala, a black-tie event in its second year.

The evening will feature a guest appearance by Craig O’Neill, event emcee; a catered dinner and door prizes donated by the community including guns, TVs, a Wii gaming system, a Nook, a laptop computer, a deer feeder, tool kits, gift certificates to Direct Police Sales, and gift cards to restaurants and local businesses.

Among recognitions are awards for lifetime achievement and law enforcement officer of the year.

The recipient of the lifetime achievement award will win a four-day cruise donated by Vacation Tour and Travel, and the 2012 Officer of the Year will win a cruise of their choice.

Other award recipients will win Visa gift cards, and a $350 gift card to Mack’s Knife and Bullpen will be up for grabs in a special door prize for on-duty officers unable to attend the event.

Cody Hiland, 20th judicial district prosecuting attorney, pioneered the event in 2011 to recognize the risk and commitment of those in the line of duty.

“Government’s first responsibility is to protect its citizens,” Hiland said. “Unfortunately our budgetary process in communities across the nation does not reflect that priority, so this is an opportunity to honor the men and women who are willing to put their lives in harm’s way to keep us safe from those who would do us harm and to show a small token of our appreciation for their commitment to our community.”

Hiland said he extends a special ‘thank you’ to all of the businesses and individuals who have gotten behind the effort to let the law enforcement officers know that they are appreciated.

Centennial Bank is championing the event to assist in offsetting the cost of the ceremony and to give back to the community’s law enforcement officers.

Eric King, public relations officer with Centennial Bank and a former Conway police officer, said bank personnel often work hand-in-hand with local law enforcement and are pleased to be able to help with the ceremony.

“Those guys are near and dear to us. I know so many times they don’t get the pats on the back and the thank yous and all of those things that they deserve and we definitely enjoy being a part of a night like this,” King said. “They all are our saving grace and our security blanket and so many other things.”  

Other event sponsors include 10 Fitness, 12 Ring Archery, Arkansas Golf Center, Backyard Paradise, Bank of the Ozarks, Bethany Neal, Big Bubba’s Pawn Shop, Blackbird Academy, Braswell and Son, Central Arkansas Trophy, Chase Hall Electric, Cinemark, Conway Corporation, Conway F.O.P. Lodge 42, Conway Garden’s and Pool, Crossman Printing, Cruse, Diamond Ice, Direct Police Sales, Dixie Café, Don Thomas and Family, Dr. David Meyers, Emerge Events, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Farm Bureau, Farris Agency, Flower Depot, Halter’s Body Shop, Hambuchen’s Furniture, Hiegel Supply, Honda World, Hurley Chiropractic, JC Penney, Jim Rippy, JR’s Hobby Horse, Kordsmier Furniture, Kroger, Larry’s Pizza, Lauren Erion, CPA, Lefler’s Fashions, Linn’s Auto and Equipment Sales, Maggie’s Cookies, Make A Meal, Mark Vaught, Maurice’s, McAlister’s, Nabco, Nabholz, NAPA Auto Parts, New Life Church, Oak Street Bistro, Office Depot, OK Corral, Old Navy, Outback Steakhouse, Pinnacle Communications, Premier Tans, Priester Custom Homes, Ridout Lumber, Robert Jr’s Tire and Auto, Roten’s Furniture, Senator Jason Rapert, Smith Ford, Something’s Brewing, Sonshine Academy, Southern Sporting Arms, Southwest Energy, Staples, Steve Goode, JP District 3, Strain Photography, The Fish House, Thunder Road Grand Prix, Trinity Development, Tropical Smoothie, Vacation Tour and Travel, Viki’s at the Village, Virco, Webco Mining, Wright Way Photography, Ye Olde Daisy Shoppe and Zellner’s.

The ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday at New Life Church, located on South Country Club Road. O’Neill will broadcast live from the event beginning at 6 p.m. on Today’s THV, channel 11.

(Megan Reynolds is a staff writer and can be reached by e-mail at megan.reynolds@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1277. Follow us on Twitter @lcdonline.)