MORRISON – For his dedication to investigating crimes against the Sauk Valley’s most vulnerable – its children and its elderly – Whiteside County Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Michael S. Leighton is the recipient of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 2022 Moxie Award.
Leighton is with the sheriff’s Special Investigations Unit, which investigates crimes against the elderly and criminal sexual assault.
He specializes in working with children, and “is known for going above and beyond in investigating sexual assault cases and going into great depth to explain the process to survivors,” Sheriff John Booker said in an email announcing the award.
In fact, “Leighton was an integral part of forming the special investigation unit,” according to the email.
“He’s very dedicated to his work, and that’s a tough caseload to handle, crimes against kids,” Booker said Saturday.
Leighton was nominated for the award by the YWCA of the Sauk Valley, which works closely with local law enforcement in the handling of sexual assault cases. He accepted it Thursday in Springfield.
Jenna Lopez, the YW’s sexual assault and legal advocacy program manager, also praised Leighton for his dedication, and said not only is he thorough in the work he does an as investigator, but he also always goes the extra mile, helping victims with things such as finding resources and doing paperwork to help them through the process.
Leighton, of Morrison, joined the Whiteside County Sheriff’s Department in 2017; he has been in law enforcement since 1995, and formerly worked for Stark County, Booker said.
He is on the Sauk Valley National Alliance on Mental Illness board, the April House Children’s Advocacy Center advisory board, and is a member of SAVE 61, a committee that brings awareness to sexual exploitation and human trafficking, and the Whiteside County Juvenile Justice Committee.
The Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, headquartered in Springfield, is a nonprofit network of 30 community-based sexual assault crisis centers, including the YWCA of the Sauk Valley in Sterling and Dixon and the YW’s Riverview Center in Mount Carroll.
Each center provides 24-hour crisis intervention services, counseling and advocacy for victims of sexual assault and their significant others, and each presents prevention education programs in schools and communities.