LOCKPORT – When is the last time you stopped to thank a cop?
Two Lockport woman have begun a grassroots effort, called “Lockport Blue,” to say thank you to state, county and city officers in the city and town of Lockport throughout October. They’re hoping to persuade everyone else to take time to say thanks, too.
Signs on lawns, blue lights in windows, school programs, and a prayer Sunday are being planned to as part of their public campaign.
“I have been troubled by the demonization of law enforcement and the general negative attitudes towards police,” said organizer Mary Brennan-Taylor. “I was waiting for someone to come up to the plate and do something to celebrate law enforcement and the men and women who keep our community safe and I thought – why am I waiting for someone?”
Recent incidents in which police injured or killed unarmed suspects, which have led to a backlash against police and in some cases the slayings of officers, prompted Brennan-Taylor and her friend, Ellen M. Martin, to start the campaign of support for police.
Niagara County Sheriff James R. Voutour said in his 23 years in law enforcement he has never seen anything like this.
“Cops are going through hard times and we feel unappreciated a lot of times,” said Voutour. “We know the majority is behind us, but it still makes the job tough. When we get a thank-you it means a lot to us.”
Brennan-Taylor said national law appreciation month is in May, but she just couldn’t wait that long.
She reached out to Martin, whom she said “had really raised the bar to celebrate what makes this community a wonderful place to live in and raise your children.”
Martin, a self-defined community activist, has spearheaded other support events, including the Lockport chalk art festival and Kindness Matters month in April.
“As soon as she asked me I said, ‘Yes, yes yes!’ ” Martin said.
Both women have had working relationships with police in their careers, Brennan-Taylor, as vice president of programs at the YWCA of the Niagara Frontier, and Martin, as a former attorney. But both said they are funding and organizing this project on their own to show their respect for officers and the jobs they do in the community.
Brennan-Taylor said the officers who run into danger every day to make Lockport safe are the people who make Lockport a livable community.
Martin designed “Lockport Blue” thank-you signs that citizens can place in their front yards or windows to show their support for law enforcement. There is also a Lockport Blue website and Facebook page. Signs, which will be available in Lockport city and town hall, are limited, but residents can also show their support by placing a blue candlelight in their window.
“Our vision is to have the streets filled with blue lights,” said Brennan-Taylor.
In addition, the Palace Theatre in downtown Lockport will also support the campaign on their marquee and other Lockport businesses are being encouraged to show signs of support, as well.
Lockport, Starpoint and DeSales schools will join in by passing out stickers to the kids and have students show appreciation by writing letters.
Younger children will decorate “Grab and Go” brown lunch bags for officers. Retired Department of Environmental Conservation officer Dick Lang and his wife Gretchen have joined the Lockport Blue effort and are helping to sponsor, and fill, the bags, which will be handed out at shift changes. Bags will contain water, snacks and a thank-you note.
Lockport Police Chaplain Rev. Steve Antin, of Lockport Life Church, has joined them in plans to reach out to the faith community. They will ask all churches in the city and town of Lockport to have a “Law Enforcement Sunday” on Oct. 16. Brennan-Taylor said they will encourage churches to show thanks in whatever way they can, from blessings of officers to prayerful acknowledgments.
“I think kindness and gratitude are a natural flow,” Martin said. “I love Lockport and part of it is being part of a community, being one community and watching out for each other. Gratitude is certainly part of happiness. I want Lockport to be a happy place.”
“You have to be part of the solution. You can’t just complain,” Brennan-Taylor said. “We encourage people to just use their voice and say thank-you to officers for what you do.”
The event kicked off on Friday at the Lockport vs. Starpoint football game at Starpoint in Pendleton. Honor guards presented the colors during the national anthem.