By Gabe Licht
MONTROSE, MN What started as an initiative to thank law enforcement officers in Wright County has become a movement to show appreciation to officers throughout Minnesota and beyond.
It began with a text message Liz Gerads, of Montrose, is accustomed to seeing from her husband, a Wright County deputy.
“I started this after I got a text from Glen saying he’d be home late,” Gerads said. “I was texting one of my good friends and we came up with this idea.”
Her friend suggested looking into the cost of a post office box where people could send thank yous to officers.
“I did and I started contacting teachers and friends,” Gerads said. “I wanted to get enough letters for Wright County officers.”
That put the target at 200, but the response to the campaign far exceeded that.
“We got almost 8,000 thank-yous,” Gerads said. “We’re distributing them to as many departments throughout Minnesota as we can.”
In trying to drum up support for the movement, Gerads sent an email to the Dave Ryan Show asking for a “shout-out” on the radio. She got a little more than that.
“They had me on the radio and said they wanted to host a power hour to write as many letters as possible,” Gerads said.
In one day alone, the Montrose Post Office received more than 1,400 pieces of mail thanking officers.
Many letters have come from students, while a couple household names have also been signed. Among the letters Gerads delivered to Wright County Sheriff Joe Hagerty and Sgt. Brian Johnson Wednesday were a framed letter from Minnesota Twins President Dave St. Peter and a letter from Rep. Tom Emmer.
Gerads will be making several similar trips to departments as far north as Two Harbors and as far south as Owatonna.
She and her husband will also be taking a road trip this summer and plan to distribute letters to officers in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and possibly Baltimore along the way.
“We’re hoping to keep it going and launch it nationally to lift the morale of police officers everywhere,” Gerads said.
Donations from fellow Minnesotans are helping to make that happen.
“The state of Minnesota has gone above and beyond,” Gerads said. “A 19-year-old kid bought the domain name and is running the website for free.”
Find the link for that website at www.delanoheraldjournal.com, or visit Operation Thank an Officer on Facebook.
Gerads’ presentation to Hagerty and Johnson coincided with National Police Week and came one day before Peace Officers Memorial Day.
The timing is not a coincidence.
“With the political climate, I don’t think law enforcement is getting a lot of support from Washington,” Gerads said.
“You have people in Washington in leadership roles who are jumping on the bandwagon with some of the protest groups,” Hagerty said. “That can be disconcerting.”
While many are speaking out against law enforcement officials on a national level, Hagerty said he believes his department has the support of the people it serves.
“We’re very fortunate to have a really good partnership with the community,” Hagerty said. “We do a lot of outreach and get a lot of cooperation. We have a long history of working with the community . . . We have a community that’s fun to serve because they trust us.”
Gerads thanked Hagerty personally for how his officers have responded to emergencies at her home.
“I have to thank you guys personally because I know you’ve been to my house more than once,” Gerads said.
She explained that a medical condition causes her to faint. For that reason, she had taught her 2-year-old daughter to call 911 using Siri. When she did, deputies were the first on the scene.
Hagerty thanked Gerads for the support.
“We appreciate all this,” Hagerty said.
He said he would scan the thank yous and send them to his entire crew so everyone can enjoy them.