We rely on our police, firefighters, EMTs, and other public service workers to keep our communities safe. Their jobs are difficult and often dangerous, but the brave men and women who take on these duties rarely give them a second thought. With so much unrest recently, now is a great time to show your support for law enforcement and the important role they fill in our communities. We’ve put together a collection of simple gestures to show your appreciation.
Thin Blue Line Flag
While there are many law enforcement flags, the thin blue line flag has become one of the most popular banners to fly in support of police officers. There are two representations of the flag – a flag with two broad stripes of black and a blue stripe in the middle and a black and white American flag with a blue stripe in the middle. These flags show our respect for fallen officers. The blue line stands for the police officers and the courage they find in the face of insurmountable odds. The black background mourns our fallen officers.
There is also a second variation of the thin blue line story. Some say that the top black band stands for criminals and the bottom black band stands for the general public. The blue band, which stands for the police officers, is standing between the criminals and the law-abiding citizens to protect and defend them. You can fly this flag at your house or in your garden or place a decal on your vehicle to show officers you support and appreciate them and their sacrifices.
Another way to show support for police officers is to replace your porch or landscape light with a blue light bulb. This not only shows your support for the officers policing your community but is also a memorial to officers who have died in the line of duty. This idea was popularized by Project Blue Light, a movement started by an organization called C.O.P.S. – Concerns of Police Survivors.
Back in 1989, Dolly Craig wrote a letter to C.O.P.S. to let them know that she would be burning two blue candles in her front window during the holiday season. One for her son who was a police officer killed in the line of duty and the second for his wife, her daughter-in-law, who was killed in a car accident. Though Dolly has also now passed away, Project Blue Light is her legacy of honoring fallen officers across the country.
Participate in Neighborhood Watch
Participation in your local neighborhood watch is an active and tangible way to support your local police force. Neighborhood watches are a great tool for crime prevention. The National Neighborhood Watch Association is an actual part of the National Sheriff’s Association. This association places emphasis on education and common sense. Citizens should never act of their own accord. They should simply be on the lookout to alert law enforcement if there is suspicious activity in their area.
The neighborhood watch brings the community together in a spirit of shared purpose and goals – to protect their neighborhood and improve their quality of life. In the history of crime prevention, neighborhood involvement has proved time and again to be the most effective way to prevent crime. Many neighborhood watch programs sponsor community centers or sports leagues in addition to the extra observation. This social approach helps youth to avoid becoming involved in criminal activity.
Though many do not have money to spare, even small donations to organizations that support law enforcement are appreciated. Some of the top police organizations include C.O.P.S. and the Fraternal Order of Police. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation is an excellent organization as well. As with any charity, do your research before donating. If an organization seems suspicious, look it up on the Better Business Bureau or on IRS.gov.
You can also go beyond traditional donations. If you see a police officer or firefighter grabbing a coffee or a bite to eat, anonymously pay for their order. Treat the local police office or fire station to lunch or dinner by sending pizzas. While bringing baked goods or other food may seem like a nice gesture, homemade items will be viewed with suspicion. Unless you have a close friend in the police who will take it for you, it is best to stick with professional food establishments.
Thin Red Line Flag
Show the fire department your support by flying a thin red line flag at your home. This flag is the same concept as the thin blue line flag – red for the firefighters who bravely protect our homes and black to mourn those lost. Though not seen as often as the thin blue line flag, the thin red line flag is important to show our firefighters and other first responders that we appreciate them as well.
If you prefer to actively show your appreciation, join a volunteer organization that supports your local law enforcement agency. Joining the neighborhood watch is a great step, but, if you would like to be even more involved, in many communities you can become a reserve officer or a volunteer firefighter.
Neither of these steps should be taken lightly, as they are a huge time commitment and can be dangerous. Reserve police officers are “extreme volunteers” that are fully trained as police officers. These reserve officers are called upon when needed to provide an extra police presence.
Volunteer firefighters are similar to reserve police officers, though they are mostly found in areas with a low population. Some towns only have a volunteer fire department while others have a few full-time firefighters who are supported by volunteers. Becoming a volunteer firefighter takes a lot of training – at the least, an 110-hour course – and is very physically demanding.
Most cities have a few police or fire department organizations that coordinate fundraisers or other events to support their local agencies. These are a great way to get involved without committing the time and effort of serving in the police or fire department. You can help organize, publicize, and run events or help provide refreshments or décor. Any help will be greatly appreciated both by law enforcement officials and by the charitable organizations.
Firefighter Remembrance Flag
This flag is similar to the thin red line flag and shares the same meaning. It is half red and half black and features the gold firefighter’s Maltese cross in the middle. The Maltese cross is the badge of all firefighters. It is a symbol of protection and a badge of honor that dates back hundreds of years.
There are eight words associated with the points of the Maltese cross – two at each corner. They are gallantry, perseverance, loyalty, dexterity, explicitness, observation, tact, and sympathy. These are eight important character traits for a firefighter. A firefighter who wears the Maltese cross is ready and willing to lay down his life to save others. Display this flag to show your support for firefighters.
Say “Thank You”
Sounds simple, right? Whenever you see a law enforcement official, simply walk up and thank them for their service or wave and smile at passing officers. Officers say this happens very rarely, and they truly appreciate the gesture.
Another great way to say thank you is to send a greeting card to the police station or fire department. To encourage a larger movement, ask your child’s teacher if he or she could have a class project to send cards to the police and firefighters. Not only will this brighten the police and firefighters’ day, but it will also teach children they need to respect these officers and appreciate the service they provide.
While Emergency Medical Technicians are not law enforcement officials, they often put their lives on the line to save others. They are usually the first to respond to a 9-1-1 call, and they are never sure what type of situation they may be headed into. Show your support for these highly skilled men and women by flying the EMS flag at your home.
The flag is typically blue and features the Star of Life. It is a blue six-pointed star outlined in white with the rod of Asclepius (the rod with a snake wrapped around it) in the middle. The six points on the star represent the six main tasks of emergency medical responders
- Detection: Citizens on the scene identify a problem and ensure anyone not already injured is out of danger. They decide professional help is needed.
- Reporting: Someone calls for professional help and medical assistance is dispatched.
- Response: Citizens provide first aid until help arrives.
- On Scene Care: EMTs arrive and provide first aid care to the extent of their capabilities.
- Care in Transit: EMTs provide medical care while they are en route to a hospital.
- Transfer to Definitive Care: The patient is transferred to the hospital.
The Star of Life has been the traditional indication of emergency personnel and vehicles for many years.
Flags are perfect to show support at your home, but ribbons are the best way to wear your support on your person. A plain blue crossed ribbon is the traditional mark of support for police officers. Some ribbons feature the thin blue line motif with two black stripes surrounding a blue stripe.
Firefighter ribbons are also available in the thin red line motif or with a yellow stripe surrounding the red. Traditionally, plain red ribbons are a symbol of the fight against heart disease, so make sure your ribbon features the black lines or yellow stripe in addition to the red line to specifically support firefighters. These ribbons are also often available as vehicles magnets or bumper stickers so you can carry your support with you.
Police Remembrance Flag
Similar in concept to the thin blue line flag, the police remembrance flag is another way to show your respect to officers fallen in the line of duty. This flag is similar to the thin blue line flag. It is half black and half blue with a gold shield in the center. The shield features a five point star with a circle in the center. The circle is crossed by a ribbon that says “police.” The shield is representative of the badges worn by police officers. Most police badges are stars, though the number of points and the orientation of the star varies from city to city and state to state.
Share Positive Stories
We all know that social media can be a powerful tool. Post positive stories of your own experiences with law enforcement and encourage others to share their stories. By creating a community of uplifting stories and experiences, your local law enforcement will feel more appreciated and more secure in their own community.
Social media is convenient, but don’t forget about some old-fashioned ways to share your stories as well. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper to thank a specific officer or to thank the police or fire department in general. Go to a town hall meeting and share a positive story for your local government to hear. The more you can share, the better the feelings will be in your community and the more likely it will be that others will share their positive experiences as well.
Be a Good Citizen
This may sound like common sense, but the easiest way to support your local law enforcement officials is to stay out of their way! Obey the law so the police don’t have to worry about you. Always use caution to try your best not to become a victim. Lock your house and car and be vigilant. Also remember to pass on safety and respect for authority to the next generation. Teach your children how to be responsible citizens and show them that police officers and firefighters are brave men and women who should be shown the utmost respect.
You can also do your part to help ensure the safety of law enforcement. Slow down or move to a different lane when you see a patrol car pulled over to the side of the road. Pull aside to let an ambulance or other emergency vehicle pass you. Don’t crowd around a crime scene or accident; move aside to ensure emergency personnel can get there quickly. Also, inform yourself about your city’s crime fighting resources. Many local police departments have developed smartphone apps for citizens to quickly report suspicious activity, so look for these tech-savvy ways to help your local police.
With so many banners and actions to choose from, there is no reason not to show your support for your local officials right away. Outfit your house with a flag, slap a sticker on your car, and head to the next fundraiser in your community to show your police officers and firefighters that you appreciate their work.