About 50 Winters residents and those of neighboring cities gathered collectively outside of Winters City Hall on Saturday, July 18 at noon to show support for police officers and public safety officials.
Event organizer Roger Keener said he was inspired while browsing through social media on the evening of Tuesday, July 14.
Keener said he discovered the Bridge The Blue #SilentNoMore campaign where American citizens across the country were gathering specifically on July 18 to rally in support of police officers. Bridge the Blue also works to provide outreach to unite communities with their local agencies and officers, and to provide education on what defunding the police actually does.
He said the “defund the police” movement was the final straw for him. And when it started happening in Minneapolis and other larger US cities he wanted to do something. With quick planning, a conversation with Winters Police Chief John P. Miller and word of mouth marketing on Facebook, he was able to pull together a small gathering.
At the Winters rally Keener called law enforcement a selfless profession and noted how law enforcement officers and anyone who puts on a uniform (from correctional officers to first responders) sacrifices many important things from time with their own families to put their lives on the line while serving the community and tending to potentially dangerous situations on call.
He said the point was to focus most of their attention locally in Winters, but he hoped to share other law enforcement related articles in a private Facebook group for those who wanted to help with outreach and educate about the importance of the local public safety agencies.
“This has been years in the making that our police officers, sworn public safety officers, have been under attack. I’ve had enough,” Keener said.
He encouraged attendees to attend Winters City Council meetings, and to keep in mind the big picture of how law enforcement agency budgets are taking a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic and what that means. He also encouraged attendees to vote and to create change at the ballot box.
Some of the important points he shared at the gathering included:
• Showing support for women and men in blue.
• Providing community outreach to neighbors and youth to erase the negative perspective associated with our local law enforcement and personnel nationwide.
• Reach out to those who feel marginalized or without a voice in the community and to encourage dialogue and building transparent relationships.
• Be vocal locally and encourage outreach within the community and Winters Police Department, and spread awareness that Winter police are not the enemy.
• Stand united and reject “defund the police” as an alternative to the current system.
“We are showing support, not protesting,” Keener said.
He also reflected on how those who chose to engage with community members with opposing views should make sure to be courteous and cordial. He shared about how he attended one of the local Black Lives Matter protests to observe so he could listen to hear what it was their message was, and encouraged anyone who has questions or assumptions about Bridge the Blue to come observe an upcoming event or to reach out to engage in conversation.
“We want businesses, residents and children to feel safe,” Keener said. “We don’t want people to fear the police.”
City Manager John W. Donlevy, Jr. took a moment to address attendees.
Donlevy said law enforcement officials deal with people in the toughest moments of their lives, and noted about the dangers and rawness of domestic violence. He said that law enforcement is put into tough situations and then serves as liaisons with local social service agencies.
“In the back of every police car are resources for social services,” Donlevy said.
He also challenged community members to ask politicians and those who support the “defund the police” movement, “who will protect the victims?” Donlevy said defunding the police means that the resources and programs that protect victims will be the first to go.
He also noted that these types of movements have to happen and that public safety agencies make a difference in the community.
“Men and women who are brave enough to put on these uniforms are heroes,” Donlevy said.
Dave Halley, a Winters resident and retired police officer, took to the center to share about his experience as a police officer and how he observed and experienced changes from the time he first joined in the 1980s to his retirement from the Vacaville Police Department in 2009.
He shared about how he’s seen the perspective of all police officers shift due to the actions of a few bad cops who slipped through the cracks. He also noted some of the calls that scared him or were so traumatic that he couldn’t unsee them.
“You don’t get into this job to hurt people. You do it to help people,” Halley said.
City officials Mayor Wade Cowan and Mayor pro tempore Bill Biasi also took a moment to acknowledge the importance of local law enforcement.
“Our Number One thing is safety,” Cowan said. “We cannot do that without the police department and fire department. We fully support them and always will.”
Biasi followed up noting that when community members need help the Winters police are who is called.
Community member Brittny Kvilhaug shared that it was important to start having conversations at home within families. She said in her home she has started having discussions with her son Reed about how they appreciate the police and about the important job they do.
Reed presented a drawing to Winters Police Chief Miller.
“He said he wanted to show how we’re all equal and that we’re supposed to love each other the same,” Kvilhaug told the Express.
Keener said he felt the group should get out to show support and provide outreach often, especially to the youth.
“We don’t have to be reactionary,” Keener told the Express. “Counter protests don’t turn out well.”
Keener noted plans to not be silent and to continue to bring outreach and educational opportunities to Winters. He said public posts will be shared in the Winters 411 Facebook group, and to reach out to him regarding inclusion in the private Facebook group.
Learn more about the Bridge The Blue #silentnomore movement at https://bridgetheblue.com/.