While many may only encounter police officers when they’ve been speeding or have a taillight out, one organization is asking the public to recognize the dangers of policing and take the time this weekend to thank their local law-enforcement officers.
“From my standpoint, you go to work, I go to work — neither one of us is doing jobs where we may get shot at, where we may get yelled at, where we may get disrespected at,” said Andrea Baumann, a Sussex County resident overseeing Thank A Police Officer Day on Delmarva.
“They work a lot of hours, they see a lot of things, and then … they still have to, at the end of the day, after handling some horrific things that most of us would have nightmares about, be a normal person — husband, wife, father or mother — to their own families… I feel even just making a small gesture is acknowledging what they do, and maybe silently saying, ‘Thank you. We appreciate what you do out there,’ can make a difference.”
This Saturday, Sept. 16, is National Thank A Police Officer Day, created in 2012 by the Whole Truth Project, an organization “dedicated to protecting innocent police officers, wrongfully accused of police misconduct in wrongful conviction lawsuits and other civil rights cases.”
Baumann became involved in the event in 2013 and has been heavily involved ever since.
“I visited one police department my first year. In the last three years, we’ve had a number of people — several hundred volunteers — get involved and sign up to adopt their local departments.
“In Dagsboro, we had the same family adopt the Dagsboro Police Department as last year. They set up a table for the police department, and people stop by and sign the card. They put together goodie baskets for each officer, and the officers are there and the community can meet them. I just think it’s neat.”
For the Delmarva group, various teams sign up to cover departments or geographic regions and organize various ways to show their support — and thanks.
“People do everything from making cards and banners to bringing in classes of kids to sing for the police officers,” she said. “The Delaware Patriot Guard in northern Delaware is doing coffee and doughnuts for three different departments. I have another group of people doing pizzas… Everybody does what they would like to put together for their local department. It varies from person to person. We don’t have any set protocol. The goal is just to get the community involved in recognizing and appreciating our officers.”
The Ocean View Police Department, which had individuals visit them at their police station last year to recognize the day, said it is always nice to hear from the community.
“Especially today, it’s just nice to know that there are people out there, that the public is out there. We may not always see them or hear them, but the vast majority of the public support the police,” said OVPD Sgt. Rhys Bradshaw.
OVPD Chief Ken McLaughlin said the department is fortunate that they are thanked throughout the year by many community members.
“Just today, we were here and someone came in with a fig cake for us. We’re lucky. We do get showered with food!”
McLaughlin said that, aside from baked goods, the department also receives pictures colored by local school kids, and even cards, which they then post on the department’s bulletin board for all to see.
One such card was recently sent to the department by builder Bruce Mears and reads, “Even though I don’t live in Ocean View town limits, I appreciate everything OVPD does for our community. Thank you for your efforts to control drugs and crime!”
“When I’m running radar or writing reports or stopping into Royal Farms, I’ll have people stop and thank me for my service,” said Bradshaw. “I could be having the worst day in the world, but just one person coming up and saying, ‘Thank you for what you do’ — that just makes my day and makes everything better.”
“We’re very blessed here,” reflected McLaughlin. “In other places, cops can get cynical and feel there’s an ‘us-against-them’ mentality. Down here, in this area, anyway, we’re fortunate in the fact that the attitude is, ‘These are our friends. We want to help them and do whatever we can.’ It takes it into a different realm. Instead of just being a job, it makes it a whole lot more personal.”
The two also noted that one doesn’t have to travel too far before seeing a blue porch light or thin-blue-line decal on the back of a car.
“It’s nice,” said McLaughlin. “In this area, we’re extremely lucky.”
“It’s a brotherhood between officers and citizen,” added Bradshaw. “When we see that, it means those people support us and we have a friend in the community.”
Baumann, who has a thin-blue-line sticker on her car, said it amazes her that something so small can make such a difference.
“Here I am, an ordinary person, just putting a sticker on my car, and they’re thanking me. That’s kind of humbling…”
Last year, Baumann’s organization helped thank more than 70 departments across Delmarva, and she said she hopes they will be able to do that with the same number, if not more, this Saturday.
“At the end of the day, when we’re in trouble, we all go and call the same phone number.”