Police officers put their lives on the line every day to protect communities and keep the peace. Yet, it can be a bit of a thankless job, which is why the third Saturday of September is now recognized nationally as "Thank a Police Officer Day." Showing appreciation for law enforcement can go a long way in boosting the morale of officers. Residents, businesses and civic organizations can all participate on "Thank a Police Officer Day," as there are many creative ways people across the country are getting involved. To start, here's some more information about the date and how it is observed.

"The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."
"The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."

First event held in 2012

"Thank a Police Officer Day," sometimes also called "National Tell a Police Officer 'Thank You' Day," was begun in 2012 by the Whole Truth Project, an organization that describes itself as "serving and protecting those who serve and protect our communities." The Whole Truth Project itself was begun by Andrew Hale, a Chicago-based attorney who represented law enforcement in several different high-profile cases. Hale, in announcing the inaugural "Thank a Police Officer Day" in 2012, said he was inspired to create the event to honor and recognize the service of police officers.

"We want people to show their appreciation for the job that the brave men and women of law enforcement do every day," Hale said. "Having represented police officers for several years, I know the difficult job these men and women undertake every day and I think we often take our police officers for granted. We must show support and appreciation for those that serve and protect us."

Hale's other motivation in starting the "Thank a Police Officer Day" campaign was the negative headlines that had come to dominate the news and headlines and public perception of police. 

"Unfortunately the bad tends to stand out and make more interesting news stories," Hale said to HuffingtonPost. "Mistakes and problems tend to be more dramatic, attention-getting, adrenalin-fueling — far more than the calm, peaceful good deeds police officers do every day."

Many creative ways to say thanks

While "Thank a Police Officer Day" is a relatively recent observation, support for the cause has been seen across the country in many different ways. Some of those examples include Sylacauga, Alabama, where local residents, businesses, houses of worship and civic organizations were encouraged to affix a blue ribbon to their doors to "Paint the Town Blue." In Fairfax County, Virginia, officers discovered small rocks painted with messages of affirmation and appreciation in blue paint.

"You don't know what someone's going through and what sort of circumstances they're dealing with or facing and what kind of day they're having," Julie Trace, the rock painter, told the local CBS affiliate. "It could just help them in the moment to put a smile on their face or if they're facing something really big in their life."

As demonstrated, there are several opportunities to get creative with expressing your thanks, but some ideas for "Thank a Police Officer Day" on Sept. 21 include:

  • Paying it forward if you see a police officer in line for coffee, or donating a cup on the house if you own a business.
  • Attending, hosting or organizing an event.
  • Wearing blue or decorating your house with blue lights.
  • Sending a thank-you card to your local police department.
  • Making goodie bags and dropping them off at the nearest station.

Police officers regularly put themselves in danger to ensure the safety of the communities they serve; a small "thank you" can go a long way on "Thank a Police Office Day."