They proudly saluted as the color guard carried the American flag and the Evanston Police flag to the front of police headquarters on Tuesday afternoon.

And then, the assembled Evanston officers heard the words which Interim Chief Richard Eddington said are “vitally important,” especially now: “Thank you.”

The multi-faith Police Clergy Team, along with Mayor Daniel Biss, expressed not only their own appreciation for what police officers do, but also the community’s.

“The overwhelming majority of Evanston,” said Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein, “supports you and loves you being here.”

The Rev. Eliezer Tendero called the officers the ones “who are always there for us, day in and day out.”

While no Evanston officers lost their lives in the line of duty over the past year, that’s not the case nationwide, and so The Rev. Philip Bentley called for a moment of silence in their memory.

And Fr. Robert Oldershaw recited the “Policeman’s Prayer,” with its hope for courage, dedication, and God’s presence.

The post-George Floyd era has focused more attention on police practices, particularly the treatment of Black men. Interim Chief Eddington said citizens want and deserve professional and constitutional policing.

He also said that type of policing, doing it correctly, is not incompatible with public safety.

People want to make sure, Eddington noted, “that there is a safe space where I can take my grandson to see the Bean at Millenium Park and not get caught in a crossfire.”

Eddington has been in law enforcement for more than 44 years. He called the current climate the most challenging for officers since the Rodney King incident in 1991.

It took a decade, Eddington noted, until 9/11, for public support for law enforcement to build back up,

Now, Eddington said, the “defund the police” movement seems to be diminishing, perhaps as the crime rate goes up, and citizens demand safety.

Mayor Biss said crime statistics are “frankly sobering, and worrying sometimes.”

But the mayor also told the officers that it’s good to hear about “the crime that didn’t occur, because of the work you do all day, every day.”

And in closing, Chaplain Joey Rodgers told the officers “this is holy work. Go in peace to keep the peace.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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