This is National Police Week – a time to honor our nation's law enforcement professionals, which is something Saint Leo does year round.

The windowsill in Dawn Farrier's office in Saint Leo's Graduate Admissions Department is crowded. It's lined with cards embossed with police badges and framed letters bearing law enforcement agency seals – correspondence from police chiefs and sheriffs around the country.

"It is very rewarding to know we are appreciated by those whom we are sworn to protect and serve."
– Ted Litchauer, Chief, Fort Walton Beach Police Department

"We are grateful for partners such as yourself that lend an encouraging word during difficult times."
– Antonio G. Brooklen, Chief, Miami Gardens Police Department

"The death of a law enforcement officer is an extremely emotional experience that is felt by all members of the law enforcement community as well as the entire community. Your thoughtfulness is appreciated and will always be remembered."
– David Gee, Sheriff, Hillsborough County

An enrollment counselor for the university's online master's in criminal justice programs, Dawn sends cards to law enforcement leaders on behalf of the Department of Public Safety Administration and the university on a regular basis: whenever she learns of a positive, yet unnoticed story about an officer, a death in the line of duty, or simply to show appreciation.

"Most law enforcement officers believe their jobs are a calling and they are very committed," says Dawn. "However, they do get discouraged at times. And when a fellow officer is killed, it's extremely difficult. We want to let them know that we appreciate their service and their sacrifices."

Extending gratitude

The outreach started a few years ago. Whenever Dawn heard about an officer's particularly kind act that was above and beyond the call of duty, she sent a handwritten note to the agency's leadership, in addition to a note and a Saint Leo coin displaying the university's core values to the officer.

There was the officer in Tampa who jumped on a skateboard to share a few laughs with some inner city youth. The one in north Florida who responded to a noise ordinance call by joining in the teens' pick-up basketball game. The central Florida deputy who saved two men from a car submerged in the murky water of a canal.

Initially, Dawn sent expressions of appreciation to local and state agencies. Then she started sending cards to agencies around the country grieving the loss of an officer killed in the line of duty.

With close ties to law enforcement, Dawn grieves every time she hears of an officer's death. Her husband still serves in the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, her father was a street cop for the Tampa Police Department, and her mother finished her 13-year career as a corporal in the detention side of the sheriff's office. Dawn, herself, worked as a civilian in detention as well as a child protection investigator.

"So often when we see police officers in uniform, we see only the badge," says Dawn. "We don't see the kids and the family and the home they want to go back to every day."

Now she also sends cards simply to say thank you.

"We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to you and your staff for all your efforts at keeping our communities safe. We would also like to express our gratitude to your deputies and staff who often times are placed in dangerous situations which we cannot truly comprehend.

Two of our core values are respect and community, and as such we would like to sincerely thank you for all the risks you take on a daily basis, sometimes just by putting on a uniform. Thank you for your service, dedication to keeping us and the community safe. Please stay safe!

"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."   Matthew 5:9
The Public Safety Graduate Team

According to Dawn, reaching out to agencies nationwide to show appreciation for positive, unnoticed acts as well as sympathy during times of tragedy is a natural expression of the university's core values of community and respect.

"With so many Saint Leo criminal justice alumni serving as police chiefs, sheriffs and frontline officers, we want them to know that our commitment to them does not end at the virtual classroom door," she says. "Saint Leo is committed to not only educating law enforcement but to supporting them and the work they do to protect and serve their communities."

Image credits: U.S. Government on Flickr/Creative Commons and Saint Leo University