The flashing blue and red lights in front of the Lee County Justice Center on two Saturdays in September connoted emergency to some onlookers, but this was not an emergency.
In the front parking lot, children could be seen climbing into armored trucks and oversize wreckers, or imploring parents at bake-sale stands. K-9 officers and their dogs provided demonstrations, and children, hunched over, worked on chalk drawings that lined the front steps of the Justice Center.
Gail Pratt was among the group of onlookers who thought an emergency was underway.
“We saw all of the lights, and we thought something had happened,” Pratt said. “We saw it was about appreciation for the police, so we decided to stop.”
Cookies, Chalk & Cops was organized by Back the Badge Lee County, a nonprofit organization working to connect the county with its police officers, non-confrontationally. The organization, founded in 2015, has hosted events in the past, but this particular venue was a first, warranted by the current pandemic conditions. The idea was Heather Post’s, an owner of a wrecking service that often assists Lee County police.
“We were thinking, we’ve got to do something,” Post said. “COVID kind of pushed everything back, and I thought, ‘Why don’t we do a sidewalk-chalk thing at the police department?’ And then it just got bigger and bigger, and it turned into this.”
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
The event runs totally on volunteers, according to Vickie McLeroy, Director of Back the Badge.
“The biggest thing is that it wouldn’t happen without the community involvement,” McLeroy said. “Everything’s done by volunteers. We did 235 goody bags for all of the officers this year, along with the corrections officers and dispatch admin. And that couldn’t be done without donations from businesses and individuals.”
According to Post, one of the main objectives of the event was to familiarize the youth who might have a negative or fearful perspective of the police with officers.
This relationship is important, Post said, “[because] when the youth get older, it’s not a hate relationship; it’s, ‘OK, they’re cool. They let me play with their toys; they showed me how to do that.’”
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman