Brownwood’s Margaret and Stuart Coleman Plaza played host the inaugural Back the Blue event with citizens, government officials and area businesses giving thanks to local law enforcement.

Hundreds gathered outside the old train depot to thank area law enforcement and those officers attending said thanks did not fall on deaf ears Thursday night.

“This reiterates why you do the job you do,” Brownwood Police Department Officer Brandon Johnson said. “It makes you feel good and helps you continue on. It’s one of the toughest jobs to do so it’s a good thing. It helps us keep on keeping on.”

Area law enforcement leaders and supporters took to the stage Thursday night to thank officers and give advice to those struggling in a time where, due to emerging technology, the job of a law enforcement officer has never been more difficult or dangerous. Among those onstage was former BPD officer Mitch Slaymaker, who returned to Brownwood as executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association.

“We used to know and were expecting the attacks to come from the criminals in front of us that we’re dealing with and the politicians that sometimes make up the left that don’t understand what we do,” Slaymaker said. “Now, the attacks are coming from both sides of the political spectrum … I could stand up and tell you the landscape of policing has forever changed with the advent of cellphones and cameras and the now generation that wants people to know what happened and wants it to go viral within two hours of the incident happening.”

Despite technology advancements allowing increased scrutiny of an officer’s performance, Slaymaker believes there is a bright future ahead for law enforcement. Although technology has changed the way police officers keep the streets safe, it has not change the core of a police officer’s job.

“The essence of what we do has not changed. How we do things has forever changed, but what we do has not,” Slaymaker said. “The days of using your knight stick, and those of you who don’t know it works during the day too, without it being recorded are gone. The days of the public believing what an officer says because he swore an oath are gone. Now it has to be video and audio taped from three different sources at multiple angles. I firmly believe having crisscrossed the state and spoken to many departments across it, the false narrative we combat about being jack-booted thugs will pass. I firmly believe it.”

Rick Phelps, the event’s primary organizer and a chaplain for the BPD, considered Back the Blue an overall success and plans to bring it back in 2019.  Phelps said there is one change he would make next year is the date, due to the event falling on Brownwood ISD’s Meet the Teacher Night. Aside from the occasional school or city official having to leave early for the BISD event, he rejoiced in the opportunity for the public to come out and show their support.

“It was amazing. It was awesome. The people showed up just to be able to support law enforcement,” Phelps said. “The folks that donated the food, the folks that cooked the food, all of these folks were volunteers. It has been an amazing experience to see how this community backs its law enforcement.”