Law enforcement officers are often put in situations in which life and death decisions must be made in seconds. When they make the wrong decision, the results are often public. In some minds all officers are condemned for the mistakes of a few, or accused of malice. Thursday, the people of one Lexington neighborhood banded together to simply say thank you to the men and women who risk their lives every day to keep the community safe.
“We believe in this community that they are fair and that they’re loving people and that they’re human just like us,” said Lexington Mayor Pro Tem Hazel Livingston, who also serves as social director for the Woodcreek neighborhood where she lives. “I can tell you for myself and the neighbors that I’ve talked to that if someone was attacking me, they would be the first person I wanted there, and they would defend me with their lives, and I just wanted to say thank you.”
Livingston and her neighbors organized Woodcreek Supports Law Enforcement Day Thursday, offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner to all local law enforcement officers. The community bought some of the food, and Bruegger’s Bagels, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Moe’s, Zaxby’s, The Kingsman Restaurant, The Lost Cajun, and Marco’s Pizza donated more to make sure all those who came were well fed. Lexington police, Lexington County deputies and South Carolina Highway Patrol officers attended.
Community members, adults and children alike, also made posters thanking the officers, and blue ribbons decorated every mailbox in Woodcreek. “It’s nice when law enforcement are going through the times they’re going through now for them to step up and recognize us,” said Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon. “It means so much to our men and women who put a badge on every day in light of what’s going on in our world.” Officers also received thank you bags containing items useful in their duties such as pens, notepads, gum, mints and sunscreen.
Lexington Police Chief Terrence Green agreed. “This is big, because you really don’t know how much people appreciate it until they say ‘Hey, we appreciate you.’ And what a great way to say you appreciate it when you’re feeding cops,” he said. “The message to us is ‘Hey, just because 1 percent of law enforcement is doing something wrong, we know 99 percent are doing great things here in the community.'”
Koon and Green both addressed the perception of police in light of recent events. “We’re human. We make mistakes sometimes. When that happens, we look at it and investigate it. It takes time to make those investigations complete, so we pray for some patience and support. We’ll get through it, and if it’s a good situation, it’ll be good, if it’s bad, we’ll handle that too,” Koon said. “Right now everybody’s just emotional about everything. We just have to use the community, reach out to them and pray and try to all get through it.”
“People want to see bad news, but I’m glad the media is here to show how well our nation is,” Green said. “A lot of people are saying we’re divided. We’re not divided.”
“It’s very tough on them. They go through a lot,” Livingston said. She and Lexington Mayor Steve MacDougall were both on hand to add their thanks. “We just wanted to love on them,” Livingston added. “Food always warms people’s heart, makes people happy.”
Koon said the deaths of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge recently are on the minds of law enforcement everywhere. “It makes everybody when they leave in the morning realize that they might not make it back that night,” he said. “We tell our folks to be a little more vigilant, focus on officer safety, and just do your job. But we also tell them that 99 percent of the people we serve support us, so just keep that in mind. We swore an oath to protect and serve, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”
“It’s a tough time to be a law enforcement officer, but we hope events like this will make people want to make careers and help us,” Koon said. Green agreed, looking around at officers and neighbors enjoying lunch and chatting with each other. “This is what law enforcement is about: being with the community.”
Featured image: Woodcreek residents serving lunch to officers (photo by Allen Wallace). More photos from the event are available at the Midlands Anchor Facebook page.