Police, sheriff and California Highway Patrol personnel were greeted with wide eyes, wider smiles, letters, cards, posters and even a set of paper handcuffs as they visited a Modesto elementary school Wednesday morning.
Sherwood Elementary on Rumble Road is one of several Sylvan Union and Modesto City district schools whose students created written and video messages as part of the Standing With You effort to show appreciation of the Modesto Police Department, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department and CHP.
Officers and deputies are pulling double duty as postal carriers this week, visiting the schools to pick up the letters and take them back to their agencies, where they’ll be hung on message boards and read during briefings, said Don Crooker, one of two chaplains who initiated the effort.
A more visible show of support will occur Saturday from 11 a.m. to noon, when people gather at 12 major intersections in Modesto to hold signs, wave U.S. flags and cheer for law enforcement officers. Among the intersections are Sylvan and McHenry avenues; Briggsmore Avenue and McHenry; Five Points; Crows Landing and Hatch roads; and Martin Luther King Drive at Maze Boulevard. The Sheriff’s Department helicopter will circle once over each intersection.
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It’s to let children express their appreciation, their thanks. The younger ones really speak their minds, and they’re pretty concise and right on.
Chaplain Don Crooker, on asking children to write letters and cards of thanks to law enforcement
Crooker, a chaplain with the Modesto Police and Stanislaus County Sheriff’s departments, said he and Matthew Schrader, an MPD chaplain, got the effort started because of incidents throughout the country by a small number of officers that have cast law enforcement in a negative light. “Since we’re chaplains, we see the law enforcement side of it,” Crooker said Wednesday morning at Sherwood. “These people have signed up to give their lives if necessary to protect us. We just want the community to show they support these folks.”
CHP Officer Eric Parsons, one of those who visited Sherwood, added, “You see stuff that makes us look bad, and some people then take it out on officers who are innocent and good people.” Parsons, a spokesman for the CHP, said he appreciates Standing With You as a “way to send a message that the majority of people appreciate what you do, the sacrifices you make … that the majority of people are behind you and support you.”
When we’re out there, we’re gonna have to drive fast, we’re gonna have to chase people, but if we can do it in a safe way and avoid collisions, it keeps everybody safer.
CHP Officer Eric Parsons, on officers being recognized for good driving records
The chaplains reached out to 21 community organizations – among them, the Latino Community Roundtable, Advancing Vibrant Communities, the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and Love Modesto – to get supporters at the intersections Saturday. Crooker said he also knows that Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and 4-H members will turn out. “Waterford has picked up on it and will do its own day Nov. 14,” he added.
One of Parsons’ stops Wednesday morning was the fifth-grade class of Sara Miller. An apparently nervous Elise Flores was called forward to present the class’s letters. She rushed out the words “Thank you for risking your life for the sake of others” and spun to head back to her seat. But Parsons called her back for a handshake.
He also answered a range of questions: Is your job scary? (It can be.) Is your car free? (To him it is, but the state bought it.) Do you have buttons to turn on your lights and sirens? (He can do it by voice command so he can keep his eyes on the road. That answer wowed the kids.)
He also was asked if he likes his job. “I love my job, I really do. I enjoy it,” he answered. “I have a fourth-grader, a second-grader and a preschooler at home, and it’s fun to see the look on their face when they see their dad’s a police officer. It’s fun to do stuff like this, too – interact with the community, spend time with you guys.”
Savage Middle School students produced a two-minute video posted on YouTube. View it at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ot4cbKLLUWE&feature=youtu.be.
Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327