It was a full house at Elks Lodge No. 901 earlier this month when more than 200 people gathered to honor the lodge’s first Enrique S. Camarena Award winner.

Camarena, an agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, was murdered in Mexico in 1985. Each year, Elks Lodges across the country celebrate his dedication by honoring an officer who works in the drug enforcement field. It is, said Elks’ Exalted Ruler Randy Logan, one of the highest awards an Elk can give to a law enforcement officer.

Chris Kaupe, this year’s recipient, has been a police officer for 27 years. For the past eight, he has worked with the Cotati Police Department as a K9 officer. Currently he partners with Koda, an alert, intelligent and curious Czech Shepherd. Kaupe has been a K9 officer for 15 years.

“It’s an honor to be a partner in trying to eradicate this problem,” Kaupe said when accepting the award.

Kaupe has received a number of awards, including an honor from Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. He has participated in the Every 15 Minutes program, providing education about drunk driving to high school students; has made more than 1,200 arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and works as a field training officer, offering drug enforcement training to officers in other areas.

Said his nominating officer, Lt. Bill French, “He gets the bigger picture as it pertains to sharing knowledge … to get drugs off the streets.”

— Katie Watts