UNION COUNTY — A program that has helped bridge the gap between the public and law enforcement in one Upstate county is now being implemented in Union County.
Kim Bailey, Administrative Assistant to Union County Sheriff David Taylor, said Monday that the Sheriff’s Office is in the process of implementing an Adopt-a-Cop program for Union County. She said that the decision to do so was in light of the impact the program has had in Greenville County in bringing the public together with law enforcement.
“There’s been other law enforcement agencies across the country that have done that,” Bailey said. “The closest to us is the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office. I reached out to them for information about the program and what it has meant to them.
“What they have told me is they have people in their community that want to do things for officers and let them know someone is thinking of them,” she said. ‘They have found that it has helped bridge the gap between the community and law enforcement.”
Bailey said that as a result of this, the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office plans to make its Adopt-A-Cop program, which is currently in it’s first year, an ongoing thing.
The bridging of the gap between the public and law enforcement as has been the case in Greenville County is what the Adopt-a-Cop program, which began nearly 20 years ago, is all about.
According to its website (adopt-a-cop.org) the Adopt-a-Cop program “was initiated by Chaplain Sgt. Ken Rochell of Michigan State Police in 1998. Ken began this ministry to serve as a bridge between local churches and their local law enforcement agencies. Ken serves as a Michigan State Police Recruiter.”
The success of the Adopt-A-Cop program in Greenville County inspired Bailey to pitch it to Taylor for the Union County Sheriff’s Office.
“I talked to the sheriff about it and what Greenville County is doing and asked for permission to head it up,” Bailey said. “He agreed that it sounded like a good program.”
After getting the go ahead from Taylor, Bailey turned to the Internet to determine the level of interest in the community for such a program.
“The first thing I did was reached out to our Facebook followers and see if there would be enough of a response from the public for us to even begin,” Bailey said. “We had overwhelming response within just a couple of hours. So we posted on our Facebook page that anyone interested in adopting a cop should contact me.”
Bailey said that the response to that post was also overwhelming, so overwhelming in fact that the program had to be expanded to accommodate all those interested in adopting a cop.
“We had so many of our full-time deputies adopted we decided to extend it to our jail division and reserve deputies,” Bailey said. “We still have some available for adoption.”
Adopt-A-Cop gets under way Aug. 1 and Bailey said the Sheriff’s Office is asking the public to commit to participating in the program for one year.
Bailey said the decision to start the program on Aug. 1 is due to the huge response it has gotten from local schools and individual teachers. She said it was felt that by starting it on Aug. 1, the program would work around the teachers and their classes.
As a precaution, Bailey said the program will not reveal the name of the deputy, detective, jailer, or reserve deputy being adopted to those adopting them. Bailey said that will only be revealed if the law enforcement personnel being adopted decides to reveal it to the individual, family or group adopting them.
“To protect the privacy of the officer, it will be up to the officer what they reveal about themselves to the person who adopted them,” Bailey said. “Each deputy will be assigned an Adopt-a-Cop number and when you drop something off for the cop you adopted include that number.”
Bailey said that it would be up the person adopting the officer to support them in the way they feel most comfortable with. She said that support can take the form of cards, drawings, letters, and that over in Greenville County adopted officers have received gift baskets and gifts cards from the people who adopted them.
All items of support for officers such as cards, letters, and gifts should be dropped off at the Union County Sheriff’s Office in the Old County Jail on Main Street next to the Union County Courthouse.
For more information about the Union County Sheriff’s Office’s Adopt-a-Cop program call Kim Bailey at 864-466-3627.
In addition to cards and letters and small gifts, prayer is another form of support, a form of support that, according to the program’s website, lies at the heart of Adopt-a-Cop and is crucial for the well-being of law enforcement personnel.
The website states that the purpose of Adopt-a-Cop “is to assign law enforcement officers to a family, group, or individual who will pray daily for them and send a note of encouragement, support and a thank you for their service to the community.
“Imagine the powerful difference you can make in the lives of those who put their lives on the line for us every day! While a bulletproof vest gives a level of protection for our law enforcement officers, an even greater blessing and shield of protection can be found in the power of a faithful, praying believer or group of prayer warriors.
“Besides the obviously high physical risk in their profession, officers also have a risk of becoming cynical, feeling hopeless, having relationship problems, succumbing to alcohol abuse and even becoming suicidal. The divorce and suicide rates among those in law enforcement are well above the national average.”
The website includes the following letter from the program’s founder, Chaplain Sgt. Rochell.
As a police officer, I know the importance of back up. Nothing is more comforting than hearing the sounds of a distant siren coming to help you regardless of the color of your uniform or the department you work for.
As a Christian officer, I also know the importance of prayer. I feel it has been the prayers of my family and friends that have kept me safe not only physically but emotionally. Those prayers have also given me a heart for the people I have sworn to protect and serve.
It is comforting to know that I have people who are praying for me and my family every day I go out on the road.
The website also includes following biblical quotation about the importance of praying for and supporting those in authority such as police officers.
“I urge then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and for all those in authority that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” — 1 Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV)
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.