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Ridge visits campus for Law Enforcement Day

Tyler Skipper

Tyler Skipper

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Former Pennsylvania governor and secretary of homeland security Tom Ridge served as the keynote speaker at the University’s second annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Day on March 24.

In his speech, the former Army staff sergeant noted that when people see police, many automatically think “black and white.”

“This isn’t the case,” said Ridge. “There are a lot of gray areas in between, and police officers are as innovative and quick thinking as any federal agent, which I think many people underestimate.”

Senior Jordan Troxell started Law Enforcement Appreciation Day at Saint Francis in 2015. The day is intended to honor fallen, retired and active duty police officers. The event includes guest speakers and a dinner to honor police officers, as well as informational exhibits and displays, a “Blue Mass,” and panel discussions among police, students and community members.

“Tensions between communities and the police seemed to have hit a breaking point,” said Troxell. “Some members of communities did not trust the authority bestowed on law enforcement, while police officers were hesitant to act within the full extent of their duties for fear of social defamation.”

Troxell said this tension was hard for him to watch. His father served 28 years as a member of the Pennsylvania State Police.

Troxell’s strong feelings that police officers deserve to be praised and recognized for their difficult, dangerous jobs inspired him to form this day of honor at Saint Francis.

He noted that the goal is to encourage greater police involvement with students and community leaders in order to foster an environment of mutual trust and respect.

“It is imperative that we cultivate strong bonds between society and law enforcement if America is to grow and prosper,” said Troxell. “Only through such interactions can community members understand the extreme dangers and pressures officers endure to serve their communities.”

Approximately 35 law enforcement officials participated in the day’s various events.

In addition to Ridge, other participants included state senator Wayne Langerholc Jr., state representative Judy Ward and Lt. Col. Stephen Bucar and Major Robert Evanchick of the Pennsylvania State Police.

Ridge served as the United States’ first secretary of homeland security under President George W. Bush from 2003-05. The Erie native was governor of Pennsylvania from 1995-2001.

“We shot for a big name and we got it,” said Don Miles, Saint Francis’ director of residence life. “I think it’s great how big this day is becoming. It’s better to partner with law enforcement in order to fix problems within our communities.

“So often, we forget how much we need our local police, and it’s important to remind them that they aren’t taken for granted.”

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