The city of La Habra’s official motto is “La Habra, a caring community.”
Judging by the 250 or so community members who gathered in song, prayer and praise in front of the La Habra Police Department on July 26, that motto is well deserved.
Guided by local religious leaders, the informal gathering was organized to pay homage to the men and women who risk their lives to keep them safe.
Mayor Jim Gomez came up with the idea for the prayer vigil, mainly in response to the general invective towards police in some circles and recent ambush style attacks on police officers in Dallas, TX and Baton Rouge, LA, where a combined eight officers were shot and killed.
“There has been so much turmoil and attacks against people in public safety,” Gomez said. “I just thought that something had to be done.”
Embracing the words of Pastor Lance Cook of Calvary Chapel La Habra, the gatherers also prayed for the families of those fallen officers.
“There are lives of people in authority such as those that protect us that are being taken,” Cook said. “We just pray for those, their family members (of) these officers who have (been) attacked and whose lives have been taken. There is a lot of fear. There is a lot of division. There is a lot of uncertainty.”
Mike Murphy, the police department’s lead chaplain, said the city’s police personnel take their roles as protectors very seriously and are consummate professionals in everything they do.
“I can tell you honestly that they are truly appreciative of all of your thanks and I am too,” Murphy told the gathering. We pray Lord for protection upon them. We pray that they would know how much they mean to us and how much we appreciate them.”
Speaking in English and Spanish, Father Ed Becker pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church asked God to “help all of us to appreciate and support our police in their sometimes difficult and dangerous work.”
“Even in these violent and dangerous times elsewhere, you have helped our police to protect and service in justice and in peace,” Becker said.
When the 40-minute gathering ended, dozens of people gathered around Gomez and thanked him for organizing the event.
“I love that this community comes together,” said Becky Pyle, manager at Imperial Beach Self Storage.
At least 15 police officers, along with some Los Angeles County Firefighters, who serve La Habra were on hand to hear the accolades.
La Habra Police Cpt. Jeff Swaim said he was humbled by the number of people who turned out for the event.
“Amazing … Inspiring,” Swaim said. “Didn’t expect the crowd. We love the community and we love to serve.”