Supporters of officers throughout North Carolina are traveling to Salemburg to show respect for their service to the community.
The North Carolina Chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) is hosting its Law Enforcement Appreciation Service at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7, at the NC Justice Academy-East Campus, 200 W. College St., Salemburg. Officers, families and community members are encouraged to attend the event.
With a state memorial on the campus, Wanda Rhyne, president of NC C.O.P.S., believes it’s the right place to hold the event.
“So many of our survivors never seen the state memorial and it’s there on the campus in Salemburg,” Rhyne said. “Even though we’re survivors, we’re still part of the family in blue.”
Jon Evans, colonel of North Carolina Wildlife, is scheduled to be the keynote speaker. The event will also include refreshments and a balloon release at the memorial.
“Everybody is welcomed,” Rhyne said. “It’s going to be nice. We want to bring everybody together.”
She also expressed that C.O.P.S. is not just for families of officers, but it’s open to parents, siblings, children and officers. It was established in 1984 with 110 members and today, membership includes more than 37,000 families. The non-profit organization provides programs and services for families and co-workers who are survivors of officers killed in the line of duty.
Rhyne knows firsthand about the struggles of losing a loved one. Her husband, Richard Rhyne, was killed in 2011 while responding to a trespassing call, while serving with the Moore County Sheriff’s Office. He served the public through law enforcement for 37 years. His career also involved serving the Pinehurst Police Department and Foxfire Police as Chief.
“It just hit the five-year mark,” Rhyne said about her husband. “It’s tough, but when I’m out here with other families, it helps. It’s something that you never get over and you kind of get to a point where you deal with it.”
But through organizations such as NC C.O.P.S. and law agencies, Rhyne and other officers killed are being remembered. Deputies and officers from the department wore blue ribbons in early December to honor him.
“They’ve always been supportive,” she said. “It’s a process and a journey. It’s a journey you hope no one else has to deal with, but you’re there for them when they do.”
The upcoming event was created a few years ago by the national organization to bring community members and officers together. It’s connected with the organization’s National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day (L.E.A.D.), which is set for Jan.9. Events are being held throughout the United States. Members are encouraging to show support in various ways. Some of them include wearing blue clothing, sharing positive stories on Facebook, and organizing an event.