Time as a correctional officer at the Sussex Correctional Institution was more than enough to steer Casey Lewis toward a law enforcement career.

The Georgetown resident is one of 38 officers who graduated from the Delaware State Police Training Academy Feb. 10, and one of the newest recruits in the Milford Police Department.

He is this year’s recipient of the Delaware Police Chiefs Council Award, given to a graduate who showed leadership.

“At the jail you are kind of loud and boisterous and you have to push your presence,” Casey said. “It kind of overflowed into the academy when I saw someone struggling.”

In order to make sure they were producing quality officers, his superiors were often testing the cadets’ ability to persevere, he said.

“They put you under stress to see how you’re going to react and see if you’re going to slow things down to function through it,” he said. “I’d help someone or I’d take the time to gather my thoughts and help them with the situation.”

Others in the class did the same.

“It was very give and take,” he said. “I had plenty of people in my class pushing me to do my best.”

During his time at Sussex Correctional Institution, it was a given that he’d know how to assert himself.

“I tried to step up for the class because I had defensive training from the prison,” he said. “Since I already knew the basics I was able to help them.”

Lewis worked as a correctional officer for four years.

Some of his responsibilities included tracking down inmates who violated their parole. He would often have to chat with friends or family members to locate the inmate.

“That’s what got the ball rolling for me to do police work,” he said. “I enjoyed doing work outside in the community. I wasn’t being around negativity all the time and there are definitely people that praise the police as well as those people who do not.”

Lewis said the upside of being a police officer is the additional time he has to spend with his family. He’s been married to his high school sweetheart for 10 years. They have a 5-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter.

At the jail, he said, he hadn’t had a weekend off during the time he worked there.

Lewis said changing the opinion that society has of police officers drives him to do his best.  

“Maybe I can change someone’s mind,” he said. “Maybe I can make someone say ‘Hey, I had a bad experience at one point, but this officer broke it down for me and changed my mind a little bit.”