“It is more difficult to work in the criminal justice system today that has ever been before.”

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — The Champaign County Sheriff’s Office honored several of its own on Wednesday at its annual awards ceremony.

This year’s ceremony was the first Sheriff Dustin Heuerman was able to officiate. He recognized 27 deputies and corrections officers for their service, including Todd Gill, who was named Corrections Officer of the Year.

Gill said it wouldn’t have been possible without his family.

“I’ve worked with my sister for 20 years,” Gill said. “She’s been my right-hand sister for the whole time and it’s been nice to be able to work with her.”

Gill has been a correction officer in Champaign County for 22 years. This year was the first year he had the honor of being named Corrections Officer of the Year.

He said he wouldn’t be in this position if the Sheriff who hired him wouldn’t have taken a chance on him.

“I just try to do the best I can to make everybody happy.”

Heuerman said corrections officers like Gill are what distinguish the department from others.

“He has the demeanor to do it,” Heuerman said. “He’s not going to take aggressive action against any inmates and these inmates can really weigh on correctional officers who are there day in and day out.”

Heuerman said being a corrections officer today is the most difficult it’s been in years. So he made a change at this year’s ceremony to give more officers the credit they deserve.

“I gave out, I want to say six or seven commendations for correctional officers today, and that’s, I’ve been told, the first time commendations have been given to the Corrections Division.

Besides those, Heuerman also gave out several other commendations and honors to deputies. Zachary White was named Court Security Officer of the Year and Joel Ping was named Deputy of the Year. Heuerman also honored four citizens with Life Saving Awards, two of them receiving the award for rescuing someone from a house fire. It was actually the second time two of those citizens had received the award.