ST. LOUIS – For the first time in three years, an annual event returned to honor St. Louis officers for going above and beyond the call of duty.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department’s awards luncheon for the second district returned Friday morning. Hundreds of business people, city officials, police officers, and their families attended the event at St. Louis University High School.

The second police district, which mainly covers south St. Louis and Forest Park, haven’t been able to hold their annual awards lunch due to the pandemic for the last three years. Friday’s luncheon paid tribute to the service of all the officers from 2019 to 2021.

Much has changed since this group met to honor St. Louis police. One profound loss is the death of second district officer Tomarris Bohannon, who died in the line of duty in August 2020. Bohannon was honored as the district’s officer of the year for 2020. Bohannon’s parents and his wife and children accepted the honor in his memory.

“He believed in the possibility of what this city could be. And he went out to protect the people that he swore to protect,” said Al Bohannon.

“I’m very proud of him and I’m hoping his legacy can live on through the newer officers to emulate his dedication,” said Elizabeth Bohannon.

Officer Timothy Simms was recognized as the officer of the year for 2019. Police described Simms as highly-motivated and a leader in self-initiated activity.

Officers Nathan Strode and Theodore Schellhardt were chosen as officers of the year for 2021. The two officers conducted more than 400 traffic stops last year and made 87 combined arrests.

Many of the officers of the month were chosen for going above and beyond in their jobs, like working with at-risk youth, helping the homeless, and forming community partnerships.

“I think our officers are understanding the needs of the community while at the same time, maintaining public safety,” said John Hayden, police chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. “We’re all learning through this process in the past five years more than any time in my career.”

Friday’s event also marked one of the last official appearances for Hayden as police chief, as he retires from the position on June 18.

“I’ve spent the best years of my life here, but it’s time to move on,” said Hayden. “Thirty-five years is a long time.”

The late restauranteur Rich Larusso was always a big part of the police awards ceremony. He died in March after a long illness. His wife Terri accepted a plaque that read “To our best friend.”