Members of the Antelope Valley Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held a celebration to honor local law enforcement and public safety officials for their service to the community.
Members of the law enforcement and public safety sat together with church members and public officials, filling the sanctuary of the Growing Valley Baptist Church in Lancaster where members of the NAACP hope this event can be a stepping stone to better relations among all of the groups in the Antelope Valley.
“It really is about honoring them, law enforcement and safety officers,” said Shunnon Thomas President of the Antelope Valley branch of the NAACP, who helped to organize the event.
Members of the community and law enforcement also set up displays with information on their programs. Groups represented included members of the Lancaster and Palmdale offices of the Sheriff’s Stations, Los Angeles County Fire Department, the California Highway Patrol, Assemblyman Tom Lackey, the NAACP and the AV Pastors Fellowship.
Jacob Johnson is a senior pastor at the Growing Valley Baptist Church and vice president of the AV NAACP. Johnson really spoke from the heart about this event and what it might mean for the future.
“I just really believe in community participation and giving back, but more importantly there have been a lot of things that have occurred in our community, the African American community as well as law enforcement and public safety,” said Johnson. “We’re trying to do our part to give an olive branch and to say thank you. It’s very monumental what we’re trying to do.”
Both Johnson and Captain Don Ford of the Palmdale Sheriff’s Department feel that as the community grows and the police force is spread thin, this causes issues because the community no longer knows the officers personally.
Johnson also feels that spreading the word about resources available to the community is just as important. “I think we grew up in the time, at least I did, where we knew who the officers were, said Johson. “Sometimes when we say the word community, it really means the pocket of interest that we serve or the people we see all the time. But we know the community is a lot bigger than that so we have to do a better job I think on both parts, of getting information out there and educating people.”
Ford concurred. “Most of our deputies still live in the community. I think that’s one of the keys to success in any police work,” said Ford. “If you’re too removed from the community you don’t care much about it. Our guys care about it a lot more. But they don’t have the same cultural backgrounds; they need to learn other people’s views.”
A special offering was held with 50 percent of the proceeds going towards the High Desert Fallen Heroes program. Future events call for officers to sit down and have dialogues with local community members in a program Ford calls “Days of Dialogue.”