On a daily basis, law enforcement officers risk their lives to protect the public, and area residents came out Saturday to thank them for their service at the inaugural Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.

“There’s so much negativity in the world about the different killings and different people prejudiced toward anybody including law enforcement. I just wanted the Ellis County officers to feel the county was behind them,” said Lori Hertel, originator. “We support them. The negativity doesn’t reside here.

“We appreciate our law enforcement officers here.”

The Hays Police Department, Ellis County Sheriff’s Office, Victoria Police Department, Ellis Police Department, Kansas Highway Patrol, Fort Hays State University Police Department and Hays Medical Center security all were invited.

“We’re grateful to be able to support and protect the community, and when they come out and say thank you, it means a lot,” said Hays Police Chief Don Scheibler. “I truly appreciate all of the officers who are hardworking and give 110 percent.

“They didn’t take this job to get rich, and they took this job to protect the community. It’s the families of the law enforcement officers, the spouses and the children, they’re the ones that sacrifice, that have to stay at home and take care of all of the issues. They are the ones I want to say thank you to today.”

Ellis County Commission Chairwoman Marcy McClelland, Hays Mayor Eber Phelps, Ellis County Attorney Tom Drees and County Commissioner Barbara Wasinger all spoke.

“If you look at any survey of what people want to see in their community, they want to see safety,” Phelps said. “For all of you first-responders, what a wonderful job you do.

“As citizens, we want to feel safe in our neighborhoods. I want to give a heartfelt thank you to all of you.”

Phelps went on to say his father was a police officer in Hays for 16 years while he was growing up, and later became sheriff.

“From a citizen’s standpoint, I am thankful we have people step up and make that commitment so we’ll be safer in our communities,” he said.

A face painting and Ident-a-Kid fingerprinting were at the event. The Hays Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services brought trucks so children could see what the trucks looked like.

Hertel thought the day went well, and she was grateful to get to know the police officers better and express her appreciation. The day might become an annual event, but it hasn’t been decided yet.

“We’ve had so many volunteers, it’s just amazing,” Hertel said. “People have been so good to state their appreciation through their donations. It’s been really great.”

Hertel is aware of the issues faced by law enforcement because she is the daughter of a police chief and officer. She also worked for court services for many years.

“I had the utmost respect and honored my father,” Hertel said. “When I got out of high school, I went directly into the field as a court-services officer.

“We’re thanking law enforcement for a very, very good job — just being there and caring about us.”