She waited in the police department nervous of what was to come.
When the Police Chief entered, Valerie Mann stood with her hands folded.
“I heard you were nervous to meet me,” Tustin PD Chief Charlie Celano said, with Mann nodding in confirmation. “I’m just an easygoing guy.”
Mann did not expect what came next: “Can I give you a hug?”
Celano wanted to thank Mann, an Orange resident who started a rapidly growing online community of law enforcement supporters, for dozens of care package she dropped off on a recent Thursday for Tustin’s officers.
“You have no idea what this means to our officers,” Celano told Mann. “It means so much to them.”
Mann quickly replied: “You all do so much more than I could ever do. You put your lives on the line for us every day.”
Mann donated 40 care packages for Tustin’s patrol officers and a large bag of snacks and supplies for the communications team. She paid for most of the items out of her own pocket.
Celano picked up one of the bags, turning it in his hands to observe its contents: hand sanitizer, gender-neutral deodorant, snacks, tissue, lifesavers, lotion, chapstick and a prayer card.
“I wish I had this while I was on patrol,” he said.
Mann said she wanted to deliver the care packages to show support for those who wear a badge — something she feels police need to hear now more than ever.
“Basically I want to show that there are more supporters of law enforcement out here than not,” Mann said. “Supporters are the silent majority.”
Mann, who has two brothers serving in separate out-of-state agencies, started a social media campaign in 2015 to garner support for law enforcement.
“I was just frustrated with what I was seeing,” she said of the negative rhetoric surrounding law enforcement agencies across the country. “I wanted to find a way to bring people together, and things move fastest on social media.”
Her group, the Thin Blue Line Supporters, currently has more than 15,000 members. She also runs a month-long event in September urging those who support police to turn their Facebook profile picture blue, which drew participation from thousands of people last year.
This year Mann also is organizing an event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 10 at Centennial Park in Tustin for Orange County residents who would like to come out and thank local officers.
“I want people to know that it’s OK to back law enforcement,” Mann said. “We need to show these officers that they are doing something that means something, and we appreciate it.”