GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - In light of the murders of two Hattiesburg police officers, members of a Gulfport church say it has really hit home for them how important it is to show love and appreciation for those men and women in blue. On Wednesday, Handsboro Baptist Church held an appreciation luncheon as part of National Police Week.
The food filled their stomachs, but Gulfport police officers say it was the show of love and gratitude from Handsboro Baptist Church that filled their hearts.
"Usually, we deal with people who are breaking laws or good people who are having bad days," said Detective Alvin Kingston. "So, we usually don't hear, 'Hey. We appreciate what you're doing.' So, when we're invited for something like this that the church is doing put on by volunteers, it really does show us that there are people out here that do appreciate what we do on a day-to-day basis."
This is the second year Handsboro Baptist has treated Gulfport officers to an appreciation luncheon. This time being just days after two Hattiesburg officers were killed in the line of duty.
The congregation feels a greater sense of what it means to say thank you to those who put their lives on the line.
"I don't think they hear it enough. I've been listening to how they've been disrespected in Baltimore and Ferguson where there's been rioting against the police. Not listening to them," said the Rev. Joey Bennett. "They're laying down their lives. In Hattiesburg, we have two men who lost their lives recently, and I think that they need to hear that we care about them."
Gulfport officers said there is a bond among those who wear the badge.
"Law enforcement nationally is a family. Everybody makes such an issue out of color or gender or what you choose to be religiously. In law enforcement and other public safety, unlike the military, we only see each other as a brother officer or a fellow officer. We don't look at each other separately," said Assistant Chief Chris Loposser, who is also a member of Handsboro church. "Whether it's in New York City and or it's here, we feel for all our brothers and sisters in blue."
Officers said a call to serve is what led them to go into law enforcement, and getting this kind of community appreciation is what keeps them in it.