It’s the time for reflection; it’s the end of a year…the year of 2016… and what a year it’s been!
Americans have always ridden the waves of UPs and DOWNs, but this year has been different from others, for it’s been a year of discord. There’s been a lot of negative news about law enforcement…and…it would ‘seem’ not very much positive especially if you haven’t gone out of your way looking for it. But, if you have, then you’ll be aware of the wide range of grassroots efforts made by so many citizens and police departments to promote goodwill between law enforcement and those they serve.
There’s always a lot of coverage when officers handle a situation badly. Citizens, too, now monitor and record incidents when police are not acting as they should, and in seconds, wrongdoings go viral. But did you know that thousands of people, of all ethnicities, ages, and races across the U.S.A. not only record positive encounters, but also freely show their support for police officers in all kinds of ways? Don’t just take my word for it. Search the internet to find out what’s been happening on a regular basis. You’ll find a lot of examples of what Americans are doing and how they feel about those who pledge to protect us all. Now, at the end of 2016, it is a good time to show the whole picture. You might be surprised to know how widespread acts of appreciation are, and how much support police actually have around our nation.
Individual and group acts of kindness have been recorded across the U.S.A. during 2016, but few people know the scope and range of these actions. Concerned citizens have begun an amazing movement this year, for they are gathering in public places and at police stations to show support for the police in their bleakest moments. Some, however, still choose to say their ‘Thank you’ one on one. And it’s not just adults who are part of the movement; youngsters are in the act, too.
America is known for its ingenuity, so it’s not at all surprising to find that countless people are coming up with innovative ways to show solidarity with law enforcement agencies during the tough times, especially in July, 2016. Dallas crowds lined up to share hugs with bereft police officers who had lost comrades. A Candlelight Vigil was organized in front of Dallas City Hall to honor the 5 police officers who were killed on July 7th. Thousands were in attendance holding candles as they listened to the Police Chief David Brown pay tribute to the fallen. Bagpipes played “Amazing Grace;” people stood together in silence and in deep sorrow. Hundreds surrounded a banner that said: “Love One Another,” but Texas was not the only place where citizens endorsed those who wear the badge.
From state to state throughout 2016 people came forward at stressful times to aide officers. In New York, a man brought bags of coffee and snacks to police officers who were standing guard after the bombing in Chelsea. In the midst of uncertainty, there were smiles and ‘thanks’ from both sides. It was a small gesture, but that young man cared. Graham Webb III, for several years, has shown how he feels about those who wear the blue. In a unique way that few could attempt, he has gone to police stations that have lost officers in the line of duty and to various memorials and has played TAPs to show his appreciation and sorrow.
After the shootings in Dallas, a police officer in Fayetteville, North Carolina, returned to his patrol vehicle to find Post-IT notes saying ‘Thank You’ stuck to the window. Someone came up with a great way to express his/her gratitude. Residents of the town came out in other ways, too, in support of the police by taking lunches to headquarters, and by putting flags and signs of appreciation in front of the building. They also positioned themselves so that they could hug officers or shake hands with them as they entered and exited headquarters.
In Bemidji, Minnesota an officer saw that his lawn had been mowed, but he didn’t know who had done it. He found a note from the mystery lawn mower which said that he would now mow the officer’s lawn because a policeman’s job was hard enough, and when he got home he should spend the time with his family. It was signed Brett. The public has time and again managed to think of thoughtful ways to say ‘thanks.’
Children have raised money by saving their allowances, setting up lemonade stands, and foregoing their own birthday parties in order to have the money to thank police officers for what they do. They have baked cookies and taken lunch to police stations with the help of their parents. Officer Juan Trevizo has noted that in Kerrville, Texas, it’s not at all unusual for someone in the community to drop off baked goods at headquarters. He explained that Kerrville is a ‘tight’ community where you’ll often see police officers hugging or shaking hands with citizens. There’s no doubt; kids learn from what they see adults doing, and so many adults are setting good examples as patriotic citizens for our youth.
A grief-stricken woman in Iowa, overcome with emotion, because of the ambush and killing of police officers A. Beminio and Justin Martin this November, rushed to a police officer offering food and water. The heart-felt video went viral as she tearfully apologized saying that was all she could do to show how sad she was about what happened to the brave policemen. So many others shared her feelings, and they, too, wanted to do what they could to show their commitment to law enforcement.
After the Baton Rouge shooting, Andy Audette of Maple Valley, Washington, wanted to do something immediately to show that he cared about ALL the fallen officers, but he didn’t know what he, a lone individual, could do to make a difference. As he looked around his garage, he spotted a roll of blue painters’ tape and got an idea. In support of the police, he put a stripe of tape around his car. Little did he realize that his idea would not only catch on locally, but nationally…and internationally as well. As people took his idea and became creative, he realized that the tape could be stuck anywhere in support, including store fronts. What a novel way to show that you are a part of the Thin Blue Line. Now, his simple idea has mushroomed into Project Blue Stripe.
This year there was an abundance of blue lights used to decorate for Christmas, and that wasn’t by accident. Communities used the addition of blue lights to their traditional displays to show that they respected and valued their police. In St. Louis for 20 years residents have turned Murdock Lane into Candy Cane Lane, but this year they added something new…BLUE, as a tribute to all police officers. Angel Avenue, just a few blocks away, added ribbons of blue lights to the trees that lined the street. Communities this Christmas season have ‘emphasized’ THE BLUE to show they care.
There are so many ways that individuals, communities, businesses, and organizations have come forward to show police officers and first responders that they are valued and well thought of. Some amusement parks have special days set aside when first responders and their families get free or reduced admittance to the attractions. There are numerous law enforcement appreciation sporting events throughout the year. Many are posted on the Law Enforcement Memorial Fund site: http://www.nleomf.org/programs/calendar/ Days are set aside at Renaissance Festivals and museums like John Dillinger in Crown Point, Indiana, where admission is always free for those who protect and serve. Thousands of people participate in marathons like Run For the Blue and bike-a-thons that support various memorial funds for those who have laid down their lives and for their families.
One of the very best ways to support law enforcement is to join the 100 Club. Dues and donations are used to help the families of police officers and firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty. Funds go to paying families’ debts and to aid in education for their children. Your membership also helps provide life-protecting equipment such as bulletproof vests, radio equipment and armored personnel carriers for area law enforcement agencies and fund scholarships for officers to further their education in Criminal Justice. Dues are just $100 a year.
January 9, 2017, is Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. It’s a day to do something to show the law enforcement officers in your local area that you realize they have chosen “a difficult and sometimes impossible job.” Show your support in a number of ways: wear blue clothing, put a blue stripe with painters’ tape on your vehicle, send a card of appreciation to your sheriff’s department, deliver some baked goods to headquarters; be creative!
On May 13, 2017, at 8pm in Washington, D.C. is the 29th Annual Candlelight Vigil for all fallen police officers. May 14-20, 2017, is National Law Enforcement Week which was proclaimed by J.F.K in 1962, and in September of each year is ‘Thank a Police Officer Day.’ But why wait until one of those specific times to show your appreciation for the police and to recognize their dedication to keeping you safe? Why not take the time to say ‘Thank You’ whenever you can. Why not buy a cup of coffee for an officer on break or pick up a tab at a diner. Why wait?
By K.A. Huffman
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Law Enforcement Appreciation Events
Annual Candlelight Vigil
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National Police Week
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