ST. PETERSBURG — Police Chief Chuck Harmon said he prays every day for the men and women on his police force.
He sends up an extra one for the man he honored Thursday at a luncheon downtown. The event, at the Yacht Club, celebrated the department's 2012 Officer of the Year.
This year's recipient of the award is an undercover vice and narcotics detective.
"As chief, one of the things you worry about is your people," Harmon said. "Especially those who put their lives on the line, without the cover of the uniform."
The detective, whom the Tampa Bay Times is not naming because of his ongoing undercover status, has been a police officer for eight years. He is 31. He calls himself a chameleon. And he's in demand.
Last year he worked with the Lakeland Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
He is credited with nabbing a Miami trafficker who was shipping kilos of cocaine into St. Petersburg. The dealer, police said, was indicted by the federal department.
"That's probably 1 percent of the stuff we've done," the detective said in an interview with the Times. "Nobody knows what we do. You just get self-fulfillment."
Five years ago, he made his first cocaine buy in an alley. He was nervous then. He still gets nervous sometimes. "Whenever they lock you in a room, it's nerve-wracking," he said.
Harmon said the detective has taken down many other criminals in the city. He said the man's work has resulted in the seizure of large amounts of drugs, money and guns throughout the Tampa Bay area.
The detective told the newspaper he was honored to be chosen for the award, sponsored by the Exchange Club of St. Petersburg and the Charles A. Patterson and Odette W. Patterson Charitable Trust.
Mayor Bill Foster, who sat next to the detective during the ceremony, called him and other vice and narcotics officers a "strange breed."
"When I think about what must go through their heads … every single day they're going into harm's way," Foster said. "I'm humbled."
Kameel Stanley can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8643.