Area law enforcement officers received a public pat on the back Thursday night during a salute at Centenary United Methodist Church in Lexington.
More than 120 people attended the event to honor officers, whom the Rev. Tom Grieb, senior pastor at Centenary, called the "the bedrock of protection here" in the city.
"If you go to bed at night and you feel comfortable, and you wake up and you're safe, thank your police officers," said police Chief Mark Barnard. "... We're very appreciative that you took time out of your day, out of your week, to tell us thank you."
The event comes at a time when police are under scrutiny more than ever following the deaths of unarmed black men in New York, Missouri and elsewhere. Barnard alluded to that context in his remarks.
"The toughest times we have faced in law enforcement, we face now," Barnard said. "I think our profession, like any profession, needs adjusting, needs changing, there's no doubt about it."
But the line officer on the street remains and will remain the one responsible for the public's safety, he said.
Bob Schmidt, president of the Citizen Police Academy, said officers are held to higher standards in terms of character, honesty and integrity.
"They're expected to be right 100 percent of the time, all the time, every time," Schmidt said.
The event was organized by Greg Howard, a former Lexington police officer and former state vehicle-enforcement commissioner who now works with the Fayette County Attorney's Office.
"I started policing in the '70s, and I still love the public-safety part of it, the 'protect and serve,'" Howard said. "I just felt that the police nationally weren't getting a fair shake, and that here in Lexington, our public law enforcement does a pretty good job.
"And so I said, 'You know, I'm going to put together a little something at church to just say, 'Thanks for doing a good job and thanks for doing a lot of things that people don't want to do.'"
"If you look at the Breeders' Cup week, football and the stuff that's going on, they need a pat on the back, and that's how I got started doing this," Howard said.
Jason Rothermund, a Lexington officer and president of Bluegrass Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4, said officers are thankful for the public they serve.
"What's really important is not necessarily the enemy or criminal that's in front of you, but it's what you are protecting with your body behind you that really, truly matters," Rothermund said. "And a lot of times that's you, our friends, our neighbors."
"You're what stands between good and bad for the rest of us," Howard told officers in the audience. "Don't ever forget that."