SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Tragedy often brings out the best in people. With report after report of murdered police officers nationwide, people in Tampa Bay are stepping up and supporting local law enforcement.
The Sarasota Police Department has had a strong force of supporters who serve as citizen volunteers. Police officers need help too, and that’s where these volunteers come in. They work special events, help with large crowds, work traffic control and serve as ambassadors for the department. “I think I have a soft heart for police,” said volunteer Zulay Gallagher.
After the recent tragic murders of police officers, enrollment in the Sarasota Police Department’s volunteer program shot up 15 percent. For some volunteers participating in the program, it’s personal. Gallagher’s son Stephen was killed in the line of duty.
Gallagher recalled all of the support she received from law enforcement after her son’s death, and wanted to pay it back. “It’s your family when you’re in the police force. You are not just by yourself, you become a family,” she said.
Volunteer Dorothy Jones says the program has helped change her perception of police officers. “They’re normal people like everybody else. They want to go home to their families too.”
Businesses are also stepping up to show their support. ‘Sarasota Sign Machine’ printed more than 1,000 free bumper stickers that say “I got your back.” People are grabbing them in droves.
Kids are showing their support as well. After seeing the headlines, 16-year-old Victoria Rucker needed to do something. “I thought about what I would feel like if I were an officer,” she said.
So, to show her appreciation, she and her 12-year-old brother Ian made 50 paracord survival bracelets for Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies. “The vast majority of the law enforcement officers in our nation are very good people and I challenge people to try to seek those good officers out instead of focusing on the negativity,” she said.
Rucker and the volunteers share the same message, people of all ages should volunteer or spend time with these officers and get to know them, instead of just judging by what they see on TV or the internet.
Police officers and deputies put their lives on the line for us every day and the community is collectively saying, “Thank you.”