Citizens walk Tustin to support police

By Lou Ponsi

The line of walkers, about 200 strong and strung out over a quarter mile, made their way along some of Tustin’s main thoroughfares.

Many waved U.S. flags, divided with a blue line down the middle – the universal symbol for law enforcement – and others displayed homemade signs reading, “RESPECT POLICE,” “I WALK FOR LAW ENFORCMENT,” and “POLICE MATTER.”

Tustin PD Lt. Robert Wright and Valerie Mann walk with others during the Walk for Law Enforcement in Tustin on Sept. 15.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Motorists honked their horns in support as they drove past.

Judging by the number of motorists who honked their horns as they passed the procession, the second Walk for Law Enforcement was successful in getting its message out.

The walk took place Sept. 15, drawing about three times the number of attendees as the inaugural walk in 2017.

OC Supervisor Todd Spitzer talks to the crowd gathered at Tustin City Hall for the start of the Walk for Law Enforcement.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

“It’s really just blown up,” said Valerie Mann, a staunch police advocate and organizer of the event. “They put their lives on the line every day and the least that they deserve is something like this.”

Mann has made numerous gestures in recent years, all designed to recognize and thank law enforcement for keeping communities safe.

Passing motorists honk their horns in support as marchers make their way down Newport Avenue during the Walk for Law Enforcement in Tustin.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Mann’s Facebook page, “The Thin Blue Line Supporters,” draws nationwide support and has close to 20,000 members.

In past years, Mann has organized events such as Operation Cookie, where she delivered cookies to the police department and asked her Facebook followers to do the same in their hometowns. She also has made it a tradition to drop off homemade holiday ornaments to local departments.

“Thank an Officer” reads one sign as marchers walk down Newport Avenue during the Walk for Law Enforcement in Tustin.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

In 2016, Mann donated 40 care packages to Tustin patrol officers and a bag of snacks and supplies for the communications team, paying for most of the items out of her own pocket.

“It means so much to the officers to know that there are people out there that support us,” said Tustin Lt. Bob Wright, who also participated in the walk. “We really appreciate all of Valerie’s efforts and we’re overwhelmed at times with the generosity that she shows us. We are also very appreciative of the generosity and support from the community we serve.”

Marchers show their support for police as they march through Tustin during the Walk for Law Enforcement.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Part of Mann’s support for law enforcement stems from having two brothers who are officers.

A number of walkers were family members and friends of Tustin officers and officers from other cities.

“It’s really comforting to know that there are other people out there (who support the police),” said Natalie McDonough, whose husband is a Huntington Beach police officer.

Kaylee Telasky, 4, rests on the shoulder of her father, Justin Telasky, during the Walk for Law Enforcement in Tustin.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Dozens of children also walked, including Dylan Vella, the son of a Huntington Beach officer who pilots one of the agency’s helicopters.

“My dad is a police officer and he is really a good pilot and I just really want to support him and all the police officers who are here today,” Vella, 14, said.

Marchers cross Main Street as they display signs showing their support during the Walk for Law Enforcement in Tustin.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

At the end of the walk, those who participated gathered for a group photo in front of the police department and many were rewarded with law enforcement items that Mann made for those who came out for the walk.

Supporters walk along Newport Avenue with Thin-Blue-Line flags during the Walk for Law Enforcement in Tustin.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Tustin PD Lt. Robert Wright and Valerie Mann cross the blue tape as they finish the Walk for Law Enforcement at the police department in Tustin.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Marchers get high-fives from Tustin PD Lt. Robert Wright as they finish their 2-mile Walk for Law Enforcement in Tustin.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Even marchers in strollers get high-fives at the end of the Walk for Law Enforcement in Tustin.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Families of police officers gather for a photo at the end of the Walk for Law Enforcement in Tustin.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Marchers gather for one last photo in front of the Tustin Police Department at the end of the Walk for Law Enforcement.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge