City Manager Doug Adkins believes pro-police events like BackTheBlue held Saturday outside the City Building help unite the community and its police department and reduce the risk of racial violence witnessed in other parts of the country.
Organizers of BackTheBlue collected gift cards, cakes, doughnuts and water from local residents, then donated them to the Middletown Division of Police. The event was spearheaded by local residents Autumn Doughman and her cousin, Bryn Gill, because they wanted to show the officers the city “is behind them and we support these men and women,” Doughman said before the prayer service.
Doughman mentioned the violence that has scarred Dallas, Baton Rouge and Kansas City, and said now is the time to “celebrate the fact that we don’t have that type of violence here and it’s because of our police department.”
Then she turned and faced several Middletown police officers and support staff, many of whom attended the BackTheBlue event on their off day: “We are standing right with you.”
The event drew about 50 people and that type of community support is imperative if cities hope to void violence toward police, Adkins said. He said when residents see police officers in their communities — instead of only when crimes are committed — it connects them to the police.
“I have talked to our police officers and when you build the relationship with the community, it gives you that split-second — these are split-second decisions these guys are making are they going to draw their weapons or not — it gives you that split-second that if you know the person you’re coming up on and you know them instead of being a stranger and they know you instead of being a stranger, it gives you that extra second to make a good decision. Hopefully we don’t have those things happen here.
“But if they do, it gives the community extra time to stop and say, ‘We know Middletown police are good people.’ So we can figure it out instead of immediately going from zero to 10. That gives you a moment of clarity. You hope you know each other well enough to stop it from happening.”
Middletown Chief Rodney Muterspaw has been impressed by how the community has rallied around his officers, even before Saturday’s event. He said saying “thank you” is a nice gesture, but taking the time to attend a rally “is huge.”
He also thanked city leaders, city council members, pastors and the public who attended the rally.
Muterspaw said nothing his officers or any officer can do will “stop bad things from happening,” but it’s important how the department reacts to those events.
“You hope it doesn’t happen here, but if it does, we’re ready for it,” he said.