Many boys have dreams of becoming police officers when they grow up. Through the years, that dream became achievable for girls as well.
Whether it’s the uniform or the pride involved in doing work that is sometimes dangerous, becoming a police officer is the equivalent of being a superhero to many children.
In recent years, however, the badge always hasn’t summoned the same respect it once did. The emergence of social media has allowed villains and victims to be named and created opportunities for animosity and violence, aimed at many different groups, to grow and spread through the country.
The murder of five police officers in Dallas on July 7 brought the topic once again to the forefront.
Jed States, a tattoo artist at Sore Loser in Hays, said he had an idea a few months ago to do something to show support for law enforcement. States has several friends who are police officers, and the recent controversies and shootings of police officers hit close to home for him.
“Originally it all kind of stemmed from talking to some of my friends who are police officers,” States said.
“After the events in Dallas unfolded, I decided I had waited long enough, so I called Kaycee (Karlin) and we got this going.”
Kaycee Karlin, who works at the family business Phaze 2, also is personally invested in supporting local law enforcement. Her boyfriend, Sgt. Chris Hancock, works for the Hays Police Department. Karlin and Hancock also have a 2-year-old daughter, Tylee.
“It’s a whole new world for me now,” Karlin said. “Tylee says goodbye to him every time he walks out the door, and you just never know.”
Karlin said she never really thought about the work officers do until she began dating Hancock.
“Many of the things that they have to deal with, nobody knows about,” she said. “Whether it’s dealing with deaths or having to remove children from homes, they do so much that people don’t realize.”
States and Karlin wanted to raise awareness for the tough job law enforcement officers have, which — especially in recent months — often seems unappreciated. They decided to start a local Back the Badge fundraiser.
“We personally know a lot of officers,” States said. “And 99.9 percent of police officers are good people with families at home.”
States and Karlin worked together to design the shirts and selected the C.O.P.S. organization as the beneficiary of the fundraising efforts. States and Karlin set the price for the shirts at $20, Phaze 2 printed the shirts, and $14 from every shirt goes to the C.O.P.S. organization.
C.O.P.S., or Concerns of Police Survivors, is an organization that provides hands-on programs designed for each survivorship — kids, spouses, co-workers and parents — to help offer support as well as, in some cases, help rebuild a life that has been shattered by a line of duty death. The organization also offers law enforcement training, awards scholarships and provides information on the national conference that focuses on law enforcement wellness and traumas.
C.O.P.S. also hosts its own special events throughout the country including walks, 5K runs, golf tournaments and law enforcement appreciation day. There is a local chapter of C.O.P.S. in Kansas City. In the event of a line-of-duty death, the local law enforcement agency notifies the family and then notifies the local C.O.P.S. chapter for immediate response and continuous support.
The local chapters are responsible for providing exceptional services to surviving families, affected co-workers and the community.
“We have a great, close-knit community,” Karlin said. “I think by doing this, it is a boost for the police department to see how many people are behind them and supporting what they do.”
Karlin said they just finished their first run of shirts, and they sold more than 100 shirts and raised more than $1,400 in donations.
“It’s gone bigger than Hays,” Karlin said. “We have orders from Las Vegas, California and just all over, which is really cool.”
States and Karlin said they didn’t initially have a plan to do a second order of shirts, but since word has gotten out, mostly through Facebook, people have shown even more interest. Phaze 2 will be doing a second order of Back the Badge shirts, with the print date Sept. 6. Orders will need to be in by Aug. 30.
Karlin and States said they wanted to thank everyone who has donated, purchased a shirt and shown support for local law enforcement.
But they said the biggest appreciation goes to the men and women who continue to protect communities day in and day out.