Washington community honors officers with signs – Police Chief rips them down because it’s “divisive”

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VANCOUVER, WA – Today, a huge membership of the Vancouver community came together to honor, support, and love on our police.

Today, the officers felt that love. They felt lifted up and appreciated in a way they haven’t felt in a very long time.

Today, the Chief of police, Chief James McElvain, spat in all of their faces.

Let me back up. I know bylines and biographies of our writers are removed from Law Enforcement Today right now for safety reasons, so let me just say that I’m a medically retired police officer from the Vancouver Police Department, and I’m also married to an officer.

Vancouver
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A dear friend of mine, Ashley, who is also married to an officer, had been trying to think of a way to show support to our boys and girls in blue for months. Long before George Floyd and protesting and riots. Way back to earlier this year when police were still considered heroes by the mass majority of people for being on the COVID-19 frontlines.

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Due to social distancing mandates and other stupid things, it kept getting put off. After George Floyd, we realized that our officers NEEDED to feel some kind of love. So we decided to get a group of people together from churches and other groups and decorate the outside of the precincts (since lobbies are still closed up due to the virus).

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Of course, we got permission by the Public Information Coordinator, Kim Kapp, who asked us to take photos so she could share it on their social media pages.

We had planned on doing it a couple of Fridays ago but moved it because Black Lives Matter decided to do a march that day as well and we didn’t want to cause problems. So, we did it today.

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Vancouver has two precincts, east and west. We dedicated a specific amount of time to each one.

It was amazing. There were so many people there so happy and excited to show their support for the police, and many more that couldn’t make it so they sent their signs and well wishes. We hung signs, cards and flags, and kids drew on the ground with chalk.

Vancouver
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It was the best moment I’ve had in a long time when the officers walked outside and people literally cheered for them. They were so happy to see them. so happy to shake their hands or hug them (don’t tell our governor) and just to say thank you.

Cheering VPD from Leah Anaya on Vimeo.

People were taking pictures with the officers like they were pop stars. They were talking to children and answering their questions. They were having positive and encouraging conversations with their community members.

My teenager made fun of me more than once because he could see that I was welling up with tears. I pretended not to notice when some of the manly-man officers had tears in their eyes.

 

The day was much needed. It was needed for the officers, it was needed for their families, and it was needed for the community. 

A few hours after I got home, my phone rang. My heart skipped a few beats in fear because it was an officer calling that I don’t talk to regularly, so of course my mind went straight to my husband, who was working.

Thank God, it was not about that. It definitely wasn’t good news, though.

The officer, whose voice was quivering, said that the Chief ordered everything that was put up by our families and community to be taken down.

Because it was divisive.

Divisive.

Soon after, other texts and calls started coming in from officers, spouses, family members, and community members expressing how upset they were over it.

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One officer told me:

“I can’t believe they took that stuff down. I’m so upset. I was crying from all the support and now I’m crying from command’s lack of support. I don’t understand.”

Another said:

“You have no idea how much today meant to us. We weren’t expecting it but wow did we need it. We were so grateful, and we feel so bad that they took it down.”

And another:

“I don’t even know what to think. I’m so hurt! And those poor kids that were so excited to be a part of it. I feel so…defeated. Just when I thought morale couldn’t get any lower around here.”

This is TERRIBLE leadership. Plain and simple. Chief McElvain is a very data-driven person. He likes statistics; he likes facts.

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Here’s some facts:

Chief McElvain decided today to follow in Clark County Sheriff Atkins’ pandering footsteps and ban the thin blue line from being displayed outside or inside the precincts, on cars, and on mourning bands. 

The thin blue line, of course, was everywhere in the things we had decorated the precincts with.

Here’s the most important fact regarding this:

The thin blue line is divisive, but not in the way those who are uneducated on its history thing.

The thin blue line is a symbol of the division between order and chaos. It isn’t about “us vs them.” 

It’s us FOR them.

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It’s the police standing on that line selflessly, risking their own lives to protect those that can’t protect themselves.

It’s also a symbol of sacrifice that has stood for over 30 years. It was officially adopted by the National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial as a “meaningful expression to honor fallen officers.” 

THOSE are facts.

To see the area go from this:

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to this:

Vancouver Police Department
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is heart breaking. I’m actually shocked he didn’t order the American flags to be taken and a hose to be run over all of those divisive chalk hearts and “thank you’s.”

Here are some more facts.

It was ok and encouraged to show support last week, as seen in the tweet below, but not this week.

Here’s some more facts.

Chief McElvain was asked to join in a Black Lives Matter parade of sorts with the NAACP. Great, right? That’s a positive thing to do with the community to show unity.

Except for one thing: they asked him to be in the parade WITHOUT his uniform because they didn’t want a police presence.

And he did it.

Sorry Chief, what was that about not wanting to promote divisiveness? 

What follows is a letter that I wrote to my former Chief McElvain after hearing the pain in so many voices because of this poor and weak decision.

I know it won’t change anything that happened. It won’t change his decision. But it will make sure that he knows that our officers are NOT alone. Our officers are loved. They’re appreciated. They’re supported. 

And he is going to see that support. He’s going to feel the support. I can promise you that.

To my brothers and sisters at the Vancouver Police Department and everywhere that are hurting and that are getting figuratively slapped in the face like this:

We see you.

Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank your families for their sacrifices.

Thank you for always being the thin blue line.

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Murdered officer's grave desecrated before headstone even placed

Sir,

I am beyond upset, frustrated, and angry about your decision today. I know I’m not the only one, but maybe right now I’m the only who can actually say anything without getting slapped on the wrist (or worse).
 
Chief, why did you do this? Your officers, and officers nationwide, are HURTING. They’re hurting and there isn’t much that can help that right now. Let me tell you, YOUR community coming together, uniting to support YOU and YOUR officers today…that is what helped them. 
 
Today, I saw officers cry that I didn’t even know had tear ducts. They felt love like they haven’t felt in a very long time. I saw officers interacting with their community, taking pictures with children, answering questions and having positive conversations. Isn’t that what community policing is all about?
 
Today I also saw a hurting community, frustrated and feeling at a loss because they didn’t know what they could do to let their officers know that they appreciate them, that they love them, that they’re so grateful for all they do and all they sacrifice. This small gesture made them proud. This gesture was so filled with love, you have no idea. 
 
When the officers came out today to say thank you, the crowd literally cheered for them. Taylor Swift could have walked out next to them and they wouldn’t have paid any attention to her, because those officers are superheroes to them.
 
As you well know, we planned this for WEEKS. WITH YOUR PERMISSION. We rescheduled it on our own initiative because there was a Black Lives Matter protest planned for the original day we were going to do it. Please understand, we didn’t do that because we were scared to honor our officers in front of a potentially spiteful crowd. 
 
We did that out of respect for them, so that they could be heard and not feel like we were trying to silence them. We did that for you, so that you didn’t have to answer to the media as to why there was a crowd of people in an argument with another crowd of people outside of your precincts. And we did that for the officers, so that they wouldn’t get taxed and exhausted and have to focus their efforts on keeping either “side” safe should it turn into a negative encounter.
 
Almost 100 families in the community spent HOURS of their time dedicated to finding small ways that they could show their officers a little appreciation. So that instead of hearing “Fuck the police,” or seeing a middle finger, they heard, “We see you. We appreciate you,” and they saw love.
 
Do you know how many police departments around this country wish they could see that kind of support?
 
And now, for whatever reason…maybe you’re caving to political pressure, maybe you’re just scared of what the mayor or City Council will think, maybe someone complained and you’d rather pander to them than honor your law enforcement family…you’ve single handedly destroyed that.
 
You took a small, but huge thing that our community did for YOUR department, and for OUR officers, and you spat on it.
 
For someone who is so data driven, it amazes me that instead of taking the time to educate people who might see the “thin blue line” as offensive, you just kneel down and take every sign of support down to avoid it. 
 
The thin blue line, as you know, is not a response to any movement. It’s a way to honor our fallen. To remember their sacrifice. To maintain pride in the badge. And to remind everyone that even though at any point of any shift, they could also make that sacrifice, they’ll never be forgotten.
 
Does that mean nothing to you?
 
I’m so disappointed. I’m so ashamed of your lack of leadership in this. I’m ashamed of you.
 
I’m so upset for the officers that are calling and texting me, crying and expressing how hurt and angry they are.  Not to mention how upset the community will be when they drive by and see all their hard work, all the love they poured into their signs, flags, and drawings…gone.
 
Your officers won’t speak up, because they’re not allowed to. But I am. I’m allowed. And, Sir, I am going to speak up about this.
 
This is not right. You know it’s not right. And if you don’t know it, I’m going to be loud enough to make sure you figure it out.
 
I know you won’t apologize to your rank and file. But I would appreciate you issuing an apology to the hundreds of people that answered this call today to support their officers, only to have it ripped down almost before they even left the parking lot.
 
Thank you for your time.
 

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