As a child, Sgt. Leslie Weidenhammer dreamed of becoming a police officer but her parents thought it would be too dangerous and steered her away toward college to be a teacher.
She completed her degree and taught in Indiana before moving to Florida. She went to work for the Collier County YMCA and started an outdoor education program. But thoughts of being a police officer persisted. At the Y, a retired Chicago cop persuaded her to apply with the Colllier County Sheriff ’s Office.
Twenty-six years later she’s living her dream.
“Cliché I know, but I wanted to make a difference and help people,” Sgt. Weidenhammer said.
And she has. The Collier County Bar Association recently recognized Sgt. Weidenhammer for her work with the county’s specialty courts and awarded her its Medal of Honor.
Sgt. Weidenhammer is a member of the Collier County Drug Court, Mental Health Court and Veterans Court Teams.
In these roles she works with individuals with mental illness and substance abuse problems who come into contact with law enforcement while in crisis. These courts offer an alternative to the traditional court system better suited for some individuals in need of treatment services.
Sgt. Weidenhammer is also a trainer for the CCSO’s Crisis Intervention Team and coordinator of the agency’s Mental Health Unit. She serves as a volunteer board member for the National Alliance on Mental Illness where she focuses on youth programs.
Sgt. Weidenhammer has been recognized over the years by various county agencies for her role in mental health advocacy. She was nominated for the Collier County Bar Association’s Medal of Honor by Andy Solis, Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, and Judge Janeice T. Martin of the 20th Judicial Circuit.
“(Sgt. Weidenhammer’s) collaboration with our Treatment Courts process has been nothing short of transformational,” Judge Martin wrote in her nomination letter, adding that in the two years since joining the Treatment Courts Team she has educated fellow members and worked to connect with participants of the program.
Chairman Solis called Sgt. Weidenhammer a true public servant.
“Her professionalism and insight is of great benefit to our community,” his nomination letter read. “She truly cares for those she serves, and conveys the message of help, hope and recovery in all that she does.
Sgt. Weidenhammer accepted her award and gave a speech on her work with the agency and specifically the county’s specialty courts.
“I have to commend Sheriff (Kevin) Rambosk for his vision to recognize the needs of our community and citizens as it relates to mental health issues and substance use disorders, and then having the faith in me to develop a CCSO team focusing on prevention and intervention surrounding these issues,” she said.