GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Gulfport Police Department is reporting a surprising increase in the number of cases of people showing kindness to its officers.
At a time when we're hearing more incidents of officer shootings and police departments under scrutiny, many Gulfport police officers seem to be getting a positive response from the public. Over the last couple of weeks, they've been on the receiving end of love and support from the community.
A Gulfport Police officer recently found a newspaper on his patrol car with this note attached: "Police lives matter. Thank you, and have a blessed day". Last Thursday, K-9 Sergeant Wayne Payne had a similar encounter while having lunch with a fellow officer at the "Jalapeno Grill" in Gulfport.
"This couple was sitting next to us and before they left, they came over and the guy shook our hand and the lady, she gave us a hug. She told us thank you for everything we did," said Payne.
The officers later learned that couple actually paid for their meals. What surprised them even more was the message written on the receipt.
"It said, "We want to thank you for what you do. God bless and may God protect you," said Payne.
These random acts of kindness seem to be happening a lot lately. Last Friday, the staff at "Associated Food Equipment and Supplies" delivered cookies and other goodies to Gulfport police headquarters. Sarah Strong also encouraged her co-workers to wear blue to show their appreciation.
"The law enforcement I think are getting a bad rap right now, and I just think we should support them," said Strong.
That support is also coming from their brothers in blue. Last week, Officer Christian Oatis was attending a funeral for a fallen officer in Texas, when he noticed a business card tucked under the windshield wiper of his patrol car.
"I saw that it was from one of the constables in Harris County and when I flipped it over, and he left me a message saying 'We have your back,'" said Oatis. "It made me feel nice to know that my brothers and sisters in law enforcement in Texas, they're looking out for me even though I'm far away from home."
The policemen also believe more citizens are realizing the dangers the officers face every day.That's why these expressions of "thanks" mean so much to them.
"Now that they see everything that law enforcement in general is going through, they want to come up and tell you 'Thank you'. They want to give you a hug, so you know they care about you," said Payne. "It makes us feel good to know there are still people that appreciate what we're here for, and that's why those people make us want to get up and put on the uniform every day."
"I hope it helps them to know that we're behind them, that people are still behind them and still believe in them and are there for them," said Strong.
The acts of kindness kept coming. On Wednesday afternoon, two ladies from Orange Grove Church of Christ delivered a basket of food to the police station. They also presented the department with a framed prayer for police officers.