Brothers and sisters in blue banded together Tuesday for a community-style barbecue.
With recent protests, shootings and political cartoons, racial tensions and tensions are dividing southern Illinois, as well as much of the country. Tuesday’s barbecue offered law enforcement a needed boost during uncertain times.
The sizzle of food grilling and laughter filled the air at Ray Fosse Park in Marion Tuesday as community leaders sat side by side with members of law enforcement for a barbecue. Trooper Joey Watson with the Illinois State Police District 13 says it’s a small show of support, but a meaningful one.
"Support means a lot to us right now," said Watson.
It was the first time different branches of police have come together to flip up food for local law enforcement, but they hope it's not the last show of support they can give in the community.
"We wanted to do our first one down here in southern Illinois just to show law enforcement how much we appreciate what they do," said Illinois Fraternal Order of Police President Chris Southwood. "Mainly because of what's going on and what's happening in the world today, we really want to show our officers, and I'd love to do these all over the state.”
Tensions continue to rise between communities and police around the country and in southern Illinois when recent protests, shootings and backlash from a political cartoon aimed at law enforcement are fresh in many people’s minds.
Watson says, as the public’s perception of police has shifted, he’s had to take a hard look at the idea of serving the community and what it means.
"I may not come home to my family later on this evening,” he said, considering the sacrifice he and his coworkers make each day when they’re out protecting the community. “You know, am I doing a good job? Is what I'm doing worth the risk that I'm placing myself and my family at?”
He says it’s a question he chews over in his mind, but he knows his answer and the answer of many others at the barbecue.
"We're making sure that people are safe, and there comes a great sense of pride with that," Watson said. He says a sense of pride and duty to the community keeps him wanting to protect and serve day after day.
Law enforcement officers at Tuesday’s barbecue said they’re hoping to build back that public trust so they can better serve and protect local communities.
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