Local group honors first responders

First responders from multiple law enforcement agencies and fire departments gathered together today, not for any emergency, but to be honored and recognized for their service to the city of Odessa.

The recognition was part of Law Enforcement and Fire Protection Appreciation Day, hosted by the Odessa Forum at the Odessa Police Department Headquarters.

“This is the one thing the Forum does every year to help recognize the wonderful job the first responders do for our citizens,” Odessa Forum First Vice President Karen Howard-Winters said.

OPD Officers, Ector County deputies, Odessa Fire Rescue firefighters, Highway Patrol officers and several other local law enforcement branches and volunteer fire departments showed up for the event. They were given large amounts of food and drinks, and Mayor David Turner gave a proclamation to each of the organizations at 10 a.m.

“In this world, a lot of times we use hero way too much in my opinion,” Turner told those in attendance. “This wide receiver’s a hero, or this quarterback’s a hero, or this politician’s a hero. In my opinion, that word does not need to be used for them, a hero is people like you that run into the danger when all the rest of us are running away.”

Turner talked also about the current political climate surrounding police in the U.S. and the discouragement some people and politicians felt about law enforcement.

“I’ve got your back, and I will stand side by side each one of you,” Turner told them. “You ladies and gentlemen are in my prayers every day, and your families.”

Turner closed his speech by telling them he had talked with Interim City Manager Michael Marrero about his concern with the men and women of OPD and OFR.

“In the past, we haven’t seen the number of calls, we haven’t seen the number of wrecks,” Turner said. “We haven’t seen the things that y’all are seeing on a daily basis, and we are in the process of looking at what we can do to help. You mean more to the community than you could ever know.”

OPD Police Chief Mike Gerke said he appreciated the opportunity to have some recognition given to the first responders of Odessa.

“Most people in law enforcement don’t do it for recognition or fame, but it’s nice when people come forward and say thank you for what you did,” Gerke said.

Gerke said that despite the hostility towards police in some parts of the country, that isn’t what he has seen in Odessa.

“I think in our community, we have a lot of support,” he said. “I think we have a silent majority.”

OPD Cpl. M. Stewart also said he appreciated the recognition given to him and other patrol officers by the community.

“We have to deal with people at their worst times, so it’s nice to have support,” Stewart said.