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Backing The Blue

By Tami Stevenson

In the “old days” most law enforcement wearing a badge were given respect and a place of honor for protecting the citizens in their respective counties, cities and towns. Today, they are a target for extremists and negative media coverage that highlights and embellishes when an officer makes a mistake or has a bad judgement call, forgetting they are human just like the rest of the world, they lump all of them into one basket with a few bad apples. It greatly tips the scales and creates a negative outlook for the profession as a whole. This article will talk about and highlight what law enforcement does to promote the community, which has a positive effect on so many. Topics mainstream media seems so unwilling to highlight or talk much about.

Florida has been hit hardest in the nation so far this year with officer fatalities. The loss for Florida totals eight officers killed in the line of duty from January 1 through August 10, with four of them from gunfire, one being struck by a vehicle, two auto crashes and one heart attack.

The Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office knows only too well the horrors of an ambush from an obviously deranged individual, with the loss of two officers earlier this year. Sergeant Noel Ramirez and Deputy Sheriff Taylor Lindsey were shot to death on Thursday, April 19, 2018, gunned down without warning while eating lunch at Ace China Restaurant in the small farming community of Trenton, Florida. The officers reportedly had no apparent connection or previous contact with the assailant who took his own life after shooting the officers.

Left: Deputy Sheriff Taylor Lindsey, Right: Sergeant Noel Ramirez. End of watch April 19, 2018.
-Gilchrist Sheriff Courtesy Photos

The funeral procession for the two officers was 32 miles long, the largest law enforcement memorial service in the history of the state. In addition to the long line of cars, hundreds of people lined up along the road side throughout the procession holding signs or saluting from Bell to Bronson. Florida and America rallied together in mourning the loss. Along with other officials and law enforcement from across the nation, the Honor Guard from the New York City Police Department attended the services and told Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert (Bobby) Schultz the procession was the biggest they had seen since 911. Schultz commented that the community in this area supports law enforcement and they showed it in a big way.

How do you move forward from that? Instead of the rest of Gilchrist’s officers and personnel tucking tail and running, no one quit their job. In fact, they now have more applicants than they have jobs. Men and women interested in law enforcement are stepping up to the plate and want to be counted. It reminds this writer of another story of Christians being persecuted and murdered for their faith and how it actually increases their numbers. True Americans are resilient, they love their families and neighbors and will fight to protect them.

Gilchrist County deputies gathered August 10 to escort Noel Ramirez III, son of one of their fallen deputies, Sgt Noel Ramirez, Jr to his first day of school. Above shown walking with Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz along with his mother. -Gilchrist Courtesy Photo

Since then community support for law enforcement has increased. While eating lunch, for example, it is no longer uncommon for locals to pick up a deputy’s check thanking them for their service. Sheriff Schultz said his opinion has always been that being in law enforcement is more than just putting people in jail. And for a lot of reasons, some earned some not, perceived law enforcement is seen in some areas as being an adverse situation.

“It is our position as law enforcement that we are a part of the community,” said Schultz. “The days are over when you walk into a room and everybody says, here comes the law. We have to be a part of the community, if you don’t have that mindset, then you are not going to be successful. We deserve respect but also to get respect you have to give respect.”

Photo Right: Gilchrist County Chief Deputy Jeff Manning talking with Sheriff Bobby Schultz, right, in his office during an interview with the Suwannee Valley Times recently.  -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

Some deputies give back to the community by helping with kids, coaching soccer programs and other things that seemingly go unnoticed, like changing someone’s tire. Both law enforcement and first responders are many times involved with fundraisers for schools and individuals in need when tragedy strikes.

Like many sheriff’s offices and law enforcement throughout the state and nation, they work with non-profit organizations to help their communities, Suwannee County law enforcement are seen frequently helping in their community through Facebook posts and other social media.

It is not unusual to see Suwannee Sheriff Sam St. John and some of his deputies helping raise funds for families in need or organizations by serving dinners and helping out with whatever the need. St. John said the they had a trailer that was sitting around and not being utilized. They fixed it up, put new tires on it, gave it a little paint and now use it as an events trailer, equipped with brochures and other promotional items they give away at different events. It also contains cooking utensils, pots and pans, a generator, lights and other emergency equipment. Earlier this summer they set up in Branford selling chicken and rice dinners to help Love INC raise funds for the family of a man killed in an explosion. St. John said he appreciates how the community really steps up and goes above and beyond to help when a tragedy strikes. Not many knew that former Suwannee County Sheriff Tony Cameron, especially at Christmas-time, would often give travelers that ran out of gas on the highway or needed other help, money from his own pocket to help them get to their destination to visit their families.

Above Photo: Suwnnee County events trailer. If you see this trailer parked at an event, stop by and say hello. -Courtesy Photo

So many of these positive things go unnoticed and are easily forgotten. The fact is that law enforcement does so much good for all of their communities in the surrounding counties that this article cannot contain them all.

The Lip Sync Challenge videos by law enforcement have become very popular across the entire nation.

“This just kind of shows people we’re human, we like to have fun too and we’re not all serious. Everybody had a lot of fun and I think it turned out good,” Sheriff St. John said of Suwannee County’s lip sync video. “They (officers) really enjoyed doing it and to me it couldn’t be a more perfect time with all the negativity out there for law enforcement throughout the nation.” They received their challenge from the Live Oak Police Department. The Sheriff’s Office then challenged Gilchrist County Sheriff Schultz and they are reportedly working on a lip sync video at this very moment.

Law enforcement has made mistakes in the past and no doubt will make mistakes in the future, just like the rest of humanity. Mankind is not all bad and not all good – learning as we go.

“I tell everybody we’re a family. We are dysfunctional, but we’re a family.” Schultz told the Suwannee Valley Times recently during an interview.

Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office Deputies gathered last week on the first day of school to escort Noel Ramirez III, son of one of the fallen deputies, Sgt Noel Ramirez, Jr, to his first day of class at Chiefland Elementary School. Noel was met with a standing ovation by deputies as well as others. He was excited to attend his first day of school, but a little shy, they said. The Sheriff’s Office Facebook page stated that,
      “Our hope is that some day when he is older, he will look back on this day with fond memories and realize the love and respect we all feel for his dad. RIP Sgt Ramirez knowing GCSO had your son’s back and we will be there to help out any way we can in the days to come. Please take a moment to remember Sgt Ramirez’s kids along with the countless other children of LEO with an absent parent on their first day of school all over the country. A big thank you to all those that volunteered your time to show your support.”

Noel Ramirez III (center), son of one of the fallen deputies, Sgt Noel Ramirez, Jr, at his first day of school above shown with teachers and Gilchrist County deputies that came to show their support. -Gilchrist Courtesy Photo