Flagler County Sheriff’s Master Deputy Crista Rainey twice in two months saved the life of a young, troubled teen who both times had to be talked–and pulled–off the I-95 overpass at Palm Coast Parkway.
Rainey’s rapid-response reaction at what had started as a routine traffic stop managed both to disarm a suspect who’d hidden his gun from deputies and prevent the sort of police-involved shooting that have been making headlines in much of the country, but not in Flagler, where the headlines have underscored a dozen-year streak of controlled de-escalation despite numerous cases of deputies getting threatened at point-blank range.
Rainey, all the way back to when she was a Flagler Beach police officer, has been involved in some of the county’s highest-profile cases, withstood some of the vilest insults and won her department’s highest award just this year.
Plus, the seven-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office is–there’s no two ways about it–the Sheriff’s Community Division’s Badass in Chief.
So it couldn’t have been surprising to her colleagues or to Sheriff Rick Staly that Rainey was named the 2022 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year by the Florida Sheriff’s Association.
“She’s a great representative of what deputy sheriffs across the state of Florida do and handle every day,” Staly said in an association video in tribute of Rainey’s award. “She is one of those informal leaders in the agency and on her particular squad, and we’re just very proud of Deputy Rainey.”
Rainey received the award from FSA President and Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum at the FSA Summer Conference of Florida Sheriffs earlier this week. The annual award recognizes the deputy sheriff who has shown bravery, service and honor in the line of duty. The incidents on the Palm Coast Parkway overpass and at the Wawa gas station, where she disarmed the suspect (who turned out to have been wanted for murder in Georgia) figured prominently in convincing the judges.
“It sounds cliche, but I really do want to help people and chasing the bad guys,” Rainey says in the video. “And it’s something new every day. You never know what you’re gonna get that day. So I like the excitement of not knowing.”
Rainey spent two years at the Flagler Beach Police Department before joining the Sheriff’s Office. She won several awards last year for her life-saving efforts and the Wawa incident. “She exemplifies a life of dedicated service, acts of kindness, and compassion both personally and professionally,” a sheriff’s release states. She was nominated for the state award for “always demonstrating exemplary proactive patrol skills and for her remarkable leadership abilities.”
She is also a Field Training Officer, training new deputies joining the agency.
“She is just a great person,” says Sheriff’s Cmdr. Kenny Goncalves. “She’s a great mentor for our younger deputies. She dedicates her time to surfers with autism, dedicates her time to the Special Olympics, and I think that truly shines through what her personality is all about, and I hope she takes this award and really understands how great of a person, how great of a deputy she is.”
For the Sheriff’s Office in Flagler, Rainey’s award is something of a capstone this year: of the four prestigious FSA awards given annually to members of Florida Sheriff’s Offices, hers is the third time an FCSO employee has been recognized statewide.
“That’s unheard of,” Staly said in a brief interview today. “These are so coveted awards and so hard to get, I just hope the public realizes the quality of the people serving them.”
Other recipients are Communications Specialist McKenzie Davis, the 2021 Dispatcher of the Year, and Detention Deputy First Class Paul Luciano, the 2022 Corrections Officer of the Year, an award announced posthumously.
This year Sheriff Staly also nominated Real-Time Crime Center Supervisor Nikki North for FSA’s Civilian of the Year award. She was the runner-up.
Of Rainey, Staly said: “With a track record for proactive enforcement combined with her professional and positive attitude, she is very deserving of this award. We are proud of her commitment to keeping our community safe and she exemplifies the role of a Florida Deputy Sheriff!”
“I wouldn’t be getting this award if I didn’t work with great people,” Rainey says at the conclusion of the video. “I would like to thank everybody on my squad, my supervisors, Sheriff Staley, I’d like to thank my family, my mom, my sisters, my wife Morgan. I’d really like to thank the Florida Sheriffs Association for this. I’m so humbled and honored for this award.”
Watch the FSA video of why Rainey was selected this year’s Law Enforcement Officer of the Year here.