Walk for Law Enforcement through Tustin attracts scores of supporters

By Lou Ponsi

Temperatures hovering near triple digits weren’t nearly enough to stop dozens of community members from hitting the pavement to proclaim their support for law enforcement.

With many waving U.S. flags, dissected down the middle with a thick blue line – the universal symbol for law enforcement – the Walk for Law Enforcement was held Sept. 2, starting at the Tustin Police Station before embarking on a 45-minute, two-mile group walk through town.

People gather in front of the Tustin Police Department before the start of the Walk for Law Enforcement.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Joined by Tustin Police Chief Charles Celano and other members of the department, the walkers drew honks of support from passing cars and cheers from pedestrians.

“We wanted to bring awareness to the community that there are supporters for law enforcement out there and we come in numbers,” said Orange resident Valerie Mann, organizer of the walk. “We are no longer the silent majority.”

Tustin Police Chief Charles Celano, left, joins Valerie Mann and Tricia Van Haeren, right, during the Walk for Law Enforcement down Newport Avenue.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

A passionate advocate for law enforcement, Mann’s Facebook page, “The Thin Blue Line Supporters,” draws nationwide support and has more than 17,000 members.

In August 2016, Mann donated 40 care packages for Tustin’s patrol officers and a large bag of snacks and supplies for the communications team, paying for most of the items out of her own pocket.

Tustin PD Det. Pam Hardacre and Tricia Van Haeren, right, walk down Centennial Way at the start of the Walk for Law Enforcement.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

In September 2016, Mann hosted the Facebook group’s first ever Meet-and-Greet in Tustin’s Centennial Park. Many Tustin officers turned out, along with members of her Facebook group.

She also organized a month-long event in 2015, urging those who support police to turn their Facebook profile picture blue.

Items made available for walkers who came to support the Tustin PD.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

In past years, Mann has organized events such as Operation Cookie, where she dropped off cookies to the Tustin Police Department and asked her Facebook followers to do the same in their hometowns, and Coffee With Cuffs, where she encouraged the public to buy a cup of coffee for an officer.

In 2017, Mann launched a new Facebook campaign, “Protect Our Blue 2017,” which encourages citizens to “Watch our BLUE while they are stopped on a call.”

Pro LEO (law enforcement officers) supporters walk down Newport Avenue during the Walk for Law Enforcement.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“I think it’s great how they support us and keep our city safe,” said Tricia Van Haeren, a participant in the walk. “It went amazing … great turnout, and it was awesome.”

Part of Mann’s support for law enforcement stems from having two brothers who are officers.

She plans on staging more pro-police events in the future.

“We want to continue to back the blue,” Mann said. “That is all we want to (do).”

Supporters of the Tustin PD walk down Newport Avenue during the Walk for Law Enforcement.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Tustin PD Det. Pam Hardacre, left, and Tricia Van Haeren walk with others as they leave the Tustin Civic Center at the start of the Walk for Law Enforcement.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Supporters walk down Newport Avenue during the Walk for Law Enforcement.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Customers of Bagel Me! sit and watch as people march down Newport Avenue during the Walk for Law Enforcement in support of the Tustin PD.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Tustin Police Chief Charles Celano, left, joins Valerie Mann and Tricia Van Haeren, right, during the Walk for Law Enforcement down Newport Avenue.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Supporters of the Tustin PD walk down Newport Avenue during the Walk for Law Enforcement march.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Supporters of the Tustin PD walk down Newport Avenue during the Walk for Law Enforcement march.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

People gather in front of the Tustin Police Department before the start of the Walk for Law Enforcement.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC