Georgetown Law Enforcement Appreciation Rally backs the blue

Law Enforcement Appreciation Rally attendees applaud during the event held Monday in the Georgetown Circle. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

GEORGETOWN — An estimated 500 people assembled in Georgetown’s Circle on Monday evening for the Law Enforcement Appreciation Rally facilitated by state Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown.

“Here in Delaware, especially Sussex County, and the heart of Sussex County in Georgetown, we overwhelmingly support our law enforcement,” said Sen. Pettyjohn. “The vast majority of our law enforcement officers are good, honorable men and women who want to just serve and protect their communities and give back to their communities — and at the end of the day, their end of shifts, get home to their families.

“With all the negativity going on right now toward law enforcement, I just wanted to have a good public showing of that fact that we support those men and women in law enforcement, and we’ve got their backs,” said the senator, noting a few “bad eggs” can be found in any profession. “You can’t judge an entire profession by the actions of a fraction of a percentage of those. It’s not fair to do. It’s not something we should be doing.”

Former Delaware Attorney General M. Jane Brady speaks at the law enforcement appreciation rally in Georgetown. In back is State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, who facilitated the event attended by an estimated 500 people. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

The rally was punctuated by former Delaware Attorney General M. Jane Brady’s call for a justice system overhaul and a pledge from elected officials to have more than police officers’ backs.

“In 12½ years as a prosecutor, including chief prosecutor here in Sussex County, in 11 years of the 12 years I was elected to serve you as attorney general and in the 12 years that I served as a judge of the Superior Court, I spent every minute of my career to make sure that the justice system worked fairly, that it held people accountable. And that it was a just process,” said Ms. Brady. “We aren’t seeing that today, I am sad to say. When people who are breaking the law, insulting our freedoms, intruding on our properties and our persons, are given carte blanche to do as they choose, that is not a fair system.

“In the last two years, I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard anyone talk about justice for victims. I’ve heard about justice for defendants, but I have not heard about justice for victims. We need to reform our justice system, so that it is fair to both victims and defendants. I can tell you that being fair and being just and holding people accountable is what we have every right to expect from our justice system. When we talk about reform, we need to bring back the voices of victims to our justice system in Delaware. And I am pledged to do that.”

Dan Brown of Claymont shows his support for law enforcement with an American flag at the appreciation rally. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

State Sen. Dave Wilson, R-Lincoln, tipped his hat — literally — in a show of thanks to local and state police and called for a unified stance against those dissenters who believe America can survive without law enforcement in its present state.

“I’ve got to say, in my time in serving in the House of Representatives for 10 years and two years in the Senate, I can honestly say I have seen a lot of changes. I can honestly say I don’t think any of them have been for the betterment of our state,” said Sen. Wilson. “I challenge our governor and our attorney general to stand shoulder to shoulder. For years, we have said, ‘We’ve got your back.’ We need to stand shoulder to shoulder with our law enforcement officers in the state of Delaware and throughout the United States. I’ve got to remind you all, if we are going to keep this type of service from our law enforcement officers in the First State, we’ve got to stand shoulder to shoulder to make this happen.”

Numerous local, county and state elected officials from Sussex County — and one from Kent County — were in attendance, along with representatives of several municipal police departments, including Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin, Rehoboth Beach Police Chief Keith Banks and Georgetown Police Chief R.L. Hughes.

Protests over police brutality have cropped up nationwide since the May 25 death of George Floyd, who died while being detained in custody of the city of Minneapolis police. Four Minneapolis officers face charges.

“In our nation and even in our state, unfortunately, today, we see police officers attacked, berated, second-guessed and undermined because of the actions of a small number, a fraction of a percentage of officers who are unworthy of the public trust and the uniform and the badge that they wore,” Sen. Pettyjohn said.

State Rep. Steve Smyk, R-Milton, a retired Delaware state trooper, shared his take on the civil unrest and destruction of private property in the city of Wilmington.

State Rep. Steve Smyk, with a raised fist, draws support from the crowd for law enforcement at the public really held Monday evening in Georgetown. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

“I want to tell you, I am very disappointed with the way Delaware handled a group of people that came in here from out of state and destroyed our businesses, already under attack from something called a COVID virus. As soon as the governor started to lift and felt safe enough to lift some of these bans, we didn’t need people to come in here from out of state and smash the fronts of stores and steal their products,” said Rep. Smyk. “I will tell you, that in Wilmington, the Wilmington Police Department were told to stand down for hours. But the patriotism of the Delaware State Police, they went in there anyway.”

State legislators and Sussex County Council representatives pledged continued support for the “thin blue line” of law enforcement in Delaware.

“That thin blue line represents the difference between civility and chaos,” said House Minority Leader Rep. Danny Short, R-Seaford. “And unless we get out and support that thin blue line, we are going to get the chaos.”

State Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, whose family has several ties to law enforcement, said police “face uncertainty each and every day. They leave the safety of home and their families to journey into the unknown. They live, work and volunteer in the community, well beyond the hours that they clock. There is a saying that if you don’t stand behind your law enforcement, then by all means, feel free to stand in front on them.”

Dan Brown traveled from Claymont to attend the rally.

“I think we need to get back to the rule of law. And law enforcement is personal with me. I have a nephew that is state police. I have always respected the police,” said Mr. Brown. “Right now, the country is in bad shape. We’ve got a lot of stuff that is wrong. I don’t really want to point any blame, because I think it really is all of us. I think we are all to blame to a point, and … I’d like to see us look in the mirror and say, ‘Let’s all think about this.’ ”

Among the estimated 500 people who assembled in The Circle in Georgetown for the law enforcement appreciation rally, Arlene Collier-Mankin and husband Chuck Mankin of Smyrna. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

Dagsboro resident Michael Dolan, a former prison guard in Smyrna whose father was a state trooper, was there to support the police “because actually, we’ve got no choice. The cities are going apart. Sometimes, I don’t trust the government. I know there is corruption in every organization. I’ve seen it. It’s left and right. That’s where the civil war is. The war is starting now. You will pick a side. It already is in the cities.”

“Our law enforcement needs all the support they can get with all the negativity going on right now,” said Arlene Collier-Mankin of Smyrna. “The few bad cops are the ones that are always brought to light. They don’t bring to light all the good that the others do in the community. We’ve got officers; they put their lives on the line every single day.”

Chief McLaughlin said law enforcement faces a nationwide recruiting problem.

“I think it’s going to get worse. We have a shortage of minority police officers. Many departments, mine included, have worked for years to try to rectify those problems,” he said. “It’s almost impossible now to go back and recruit these people in our communities, when they are called ‘traitors’ and when they are ridiculed and when they are pushed away from serving law enforcement. That hurts our entire community. I don’t know how this will all play out. It is difficult times. We really do appreciate everybody’s support.”

In attendance was Ruth Ann Spicer, mother of Georgetown police officer Chad Spicer, who was shot and killed in the line of duty Sept. 1, 2009.

State Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown) addresses the audience at the Monday Law Enforcement Appreciation Rally held on The Circle in Georgetown. Looking on, from left, Sussex County Council members Irwin “I.G.” Burton III, Michael Vincent and John Rieley, and State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, who faciliated the event.

Rep. Briggs King said that with her family ties, she has “that inside view, that understanding, that worry, that fear that many share, but I have never had the heartbreak that Ruth Ann had in the loss of Chad.”

“We will see better results in our community and our nation when we see true respect for one another, whether they wear the uniform or not,” said Rep. Briggs King. “The thin blue line stands for law enforcement separation of order from chaos.”