In the hours after 12 officers in Dallas were shot, five dead, the message Friday to local law enforcement in Manatee County has been: We support you.
Manatee and Sarasota law enforcement departments have received an outpouring of calls from community leaders, religious leaders and residents offering their thoughts, prayers and letting them know they support and are grateful for the work they do.
The Manatee Sheriff’s office observed a moment of silence at noon, asking everyone to “pray for everyone involved in the horrific senseless attack in Dallas,” coinciding with a moment of prayer in Thanksgiving Square in Dallas that drew enormous crowds. Gov. Rick Scott directed that U.S. and State of Florida flags be flown at half-staff at all local and state buildings and grounds as a mark of respect for the victims of the attack on police officers.
In Palmetto, Chief of Police Scott Tyler came into police headquarters Thursday night when he heard the news, to address his midnight shift.
“I just wanted the officers to know that I am very proud of the work they do,” Tyler said. “The message is we don't have to be afraid, we have to be vigilant.”
Tyler said the outrage over “black lives matter” and “officers lives matter” does not have to be mutually exclusive. Conversations about police corruption does not threaten law enforcement, he said.
“I keep emphasizing that the community supports them ... It's not us against them,” Tyler said.
Throughout the day, social media posts on Twitter and Facebook showed food, sweets and flowers being brought to Bradenton, Holmes Beach and Sarasota police departments, thanking them for all they do.
Bradenton Chief of Police Melanie Bevan took the time to share her thoughts on the tragedy and offer officers and staff members some words of encouragement and pride.
“Incidents as this strike at our core, yet remind us of the ultimate sacrifice we are all willing to pay, every day we pin on our badge, to ensure our Bradenton community remains safe,” Bevan wrote. “And while we collectively grieve for our fallen officers, don’t allow this shameless act to detract from our vigilance, as we go about our duties in order that none of our ranks fall victim to a similar fate.”
Bevan expressed her pride in the Bradenton Police Department, asking them to remain safe and to honor each of those fallen officers by wearing black bands over their badges until the last Dallas officer is laid to rest.
Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino made a similar request to her officers in an internal memo, which she later shared on Twitter.
“Thank you for choosing this honorable profession. You didn’t pick it to be rich or famous,” DiPino wrote. “You picked it to make a difference and protect our community. Thank you for standing on that thin blue line. You are the guardians of a great nation. Thank you is not enough but you need to hear it. Thank you.”
Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown reached out to her, she said, in sadness to express how thankful he and the community are for the officers.
DiPino said she is not embarrassed to admit she has cried over this.
“It feels so personal. I thought of my daughter working the streets of Baltimore and all of you who work the streets here in Sarasota everyday,” DiPino wrote. “I have a friend on the Dallas SWAT team and I haven’t heard from him. Please keep him and all those in Dallas in your thoughts and/or prayers.”
Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube reminded his deputies that their partnerships with the community help make it stronger, in a memo he sent out to all deputies and staff.
“Each of you does an outstanding job every day interacting with the public that we serve,” Steube wrote. “I am extremely proud that you extend to others the simple truths of service, regardless of the color of someone’s skin or the language that one speaks.”
Steube also asked they use the tragedy as a reminder to be mentally and physically prepared for the jobs they do.
“Should you be handling a call for service or traffic stop that just doesn’t feel right, call for another unit. You must be there for yourself and for one another in order to be safe out there,” he wrote.