Law enforcement — dressed in body cameras and bulletproof vests — joined hand-in-hand with community members and leaders of the Springfield Unit NAACP.
The message of the 25 gathered in the shade Saturday outside 300 E. Auburn Ave. was simple: Pray for one another.
“What we are trying to do is get the message out that we support our departments,” said NAACP President Denise Williams. “We want to come together and pray for the safety of our officers here in our city.”
It’s a message already felt by Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly. The morning after the Dallas slayings of five police officers he received a phone call — his first of the day — from Williams, offering support.
“I contacted the sheriff to check in,” she said. “I wanted to make sure they understood that we as a community, we as an organization, we stand with them. We’re praying for them.”
Support keeps coming, too.
“I got up at 5 a.m. this morning and I had emails from people who had gone to my webpage, got my email, and they just told me they were supporting us and praying for us,” Kelly said. “That is just — it chokes you up. It really inspires you to continue on.”
Williams, who “has a heart to heart on the regular” with Kelly and Springfield Police Chief Stephen Moody about community policing, said she felt the NAACP organization “needed to do something to show our support for these fallen officers.”
“It’s a very sad thing that someone feels (they should) resolve violence with violence,” she said. “We cannot fix this taking down officers. They are the ones who keep us safe.”
Among the highlights of the event, which was bookended with prayers, was a singing of the civil rights song “We Shall Overcome.”
“Communication between the community and our service people is something key,” said Mayor Warren Copeland. “It’s terribly important when you’re seeing what’s happening in other communities where there hasn’t been that communication.”
“We’ve done a lot to train our officers to try and de-escalate situations instead of drive them to the direction where you see them in other communities, and we hope it doesn’t happen here,” he said. “Obviously, we’re deeply concerned about our officers being safe out there. What happened in Dallas is just tragic for folks trying to do the job right.”