Temperatures hovering near triple digits weren’t nearly enough to stop dozens of community members from hitting the pavement to proclaim their support for law enforcement.
With many waving U.S. flags, dissected down the middle with a thick blue line – the universal symbol for law enforcement – the Walk for Law Enforcement was held Sept. 2, starting at the Tustin Police Station before embarking on a 45-minute, two-mile group walk through town.
Joined by Tustin Police Chief Charles Celano and other members of the department, the walkers drew honks of support from passing cars and cheers from pedestrians.
“We wanted to bring awareness to the community that there are supporters for law enforcement out there and we come in numbers,” said Orange resident Valerie Mann, organizer of the walk. “We are no longer the silent majority.”
A passionate advocate for law enforcement, Mann’s Facebook page, “The Thin Blue Line Supporters,” draws nationwide support and has more than 17,000 members.
In August 2016, Mann donated 40 care packages for Tustin’s patrol officers and a large bag of snacks and supplies for the communications team, paying for most of the items out of her own pocket.
In September 2016, Mann hosted the Facebook group’s first ever Meet-and-Greet in Tustin’s Centennial Park. Many Tustin officers turned out, along with members of her Facebook group.
She also organized a month-long event in 2015, urging those who support police to turn their Facebook profile picture blue.
In past years, Mann has organized events such as Operation Cookie, where she dropped off cookies to the Tustin Police Department and asked her Facebook followers to do the same in their hometowns, and Coffee With Cuffs, where she encouraged the public to buy a cup of coffee for an officer.
In 2017, Mann launched a new Facebook campaign, “Protect Our Blue 2017,” which encourages citizens to “Watch our BLUE while they are stopped on a call.”
“I think it’s great how they support us and keep our city safe,” said Tricia Van Haeren, a participant in the walk. “It went amazing … great turnout, and it was awesome.”
Part of Mann’s support for law enforcement stems from having two brothers who are officers.
She plans on staging more pro-police events in the future.
“We want to continue to back the blue,” Mann said. “That is all we want to (do).”