Amid protests around the country of police brutality in the past year and the debate over race relations by law enforcement, San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos wondered why there were no marchers demanding an end to attacks on officers.
Ramos is now getting his wish.
In what could be considered a backlash against the backlash, individuals and groups are making gestures big and small to show their appreciation for law enforcement in the Inland Empire and nationwide.
Just as the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014 rekindled minorities’ long-smoldering feelings of oppression at the hands of law enforcement, the shooting death of a Houston officer last month apparently only because he wore a badge has caused those who have quietly supported cops to raise their voices.
Two such overt displays of support are taking place this week in the Inland Empire.
On Thursday, Sept. 17, upwards of 150 people waved American flags and held signs with sentiments such as “Police lives matter” and “We support police” on Limonite Avenue at the Eastvale Gateway shopping center.
Passing motorists honked their horns and gave thumbs-up signs to the rally organized by Wives of Law Enforcement and Fire Fighters.
Not everyone there was in a public safety family.
Cynthia Ng, of Corona, said she and her husband teach their children to respect police.
“They do such a great job and get such a bad rap,” Ng said. “We want to be here to support them.”
Riverside County sheriff’s Lt. Scott Forbes, the assistant police chief in Eastvale, thanked the demonstrators.
“It’s a hard job. The men and women out there every day protecting you, protecting me really appreciate this,” Forbes said.
On Saturday, the Liberty Dawgs of California are hosting a Back the Badge event at the Temecula Duck Pond. Attendees were encouraged to bring flags, signs and spirit.
Anecdotally, such displays of support appear to be on the upswing.
Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz said a man at the gym recently made it a point to praise Diaz’s officers for the caring and patience they showed toward his mentally ill daughter. Diaz said he is hearing far more compliments than complaints.
“It’s very gratifying,” Diaz said. “I always make sure to close the loop and let the involved officers know that there are fair-minded people out there. The only voices out there are not the critics and the haters.”
On the Facebook page What is Going on in Riverside County?, where negative comments about law enforcement are not allowed, co-founder Steve Johnson said Inland residents “speak with their mouse clicks, their comments and their shares.”
The page has grown to 75,000 members since Johnson and Dan Cupido created it in August 2013. The page features members’ posts about traffic jams and community events, feel-good stories, historical photos and public-safety activity, among other things.
Johnson this week posted a thread that encouraged residents to display blue ribbons in support of law enforcement.
A recent member’s post about Riverside K-9 Officer Darrell Hill assisting a homeless family broke that page’s records for likes, comments and shares, Johnson said. Another member’s post reported that someone paid officers’ bills at a Riverside restaurant.
“It’s just little things like that that police officers appreciate,” Johnson said.
STILL MORE ANTI-POLICE VOICES
The voices protesting excessive force by police are hardly being drowned out, however. At a Black Lives Matter rally held in August outside the Minnesota State Fair, some marches chanted “Pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon,” a statement that some law enforcement members viewed as targeting police officers.
Protesters in Arlington, Texas, called for criminal charges and police reforms in August after an officer shot an unarmed burglar to death. The officer was later fired.
There have been acts of support outside the Inland Empire as well.
When an Arby’s in Pembroke Pines, Florida., refused to serve a police officer this month, residents there threw up a picket line outside the restaurant in protest. When the restaurant called the police, the arriving officers treated the picketers to Slurpees, Miami television station Fox-13 reported.
In the Houston area, more than 10,000 people marched Sept. 12 to remember Darren Goforth, the Harris County deputy who was gunned down at a gas station. Some marchers wore T-shirts reading, “Police Lives Matter.”
“We decided we had about enough,” David Sherrod, an organizer of the event, told the Houston Chronicle. “You don’t execute cops and get away with it.”
And in Hutchinson, Kansas, one little girl started a movement.
The Kansas Highway Patrol had placed a patrol car at its safety booth at the Kansas State Fair to help in its recruiting drive.
On the first day of the fair, Trooper Tod Hileman said, a young girl picked up a sticky note, wrote, “Thank you for what you do,” on it, and placed it on the back of the car. Others saw the note and added notes of their own that praised police. Before long, most of the car was covered by the notes, which Hileman estimated numbered 300.
“It’s been humbling,” Hileman told The Press-Enterprise. “This year we’ve had some of the troopers patrolling the grounds. They have had more interactions with people saying, ‘We appreciate what you do.’”