BUFORD — The police officers with the Gwinnett County Police Department work hard to protect and serve the residents of the county.  Often times their hard work and dedication to the job go unnoticed. Officers are being disrespected and targeted for the crimes of a few bad cops causing morale among law enforcement officers to hit an all-time low.

Over a dozen citizens of Buford donated money to cater a large meal to the officers that serve their community.  On July 2 at shift change, officers walked into their breakroom at the Gwinnett PD’s North Precinct to find tables full of delicious food.  

Officers at the North Precinct were treated to steak and chicken fajitas, rice and beans, and nachos as a show of appreciation by a group of Buford residents. Photo – Alicia Couch Payne

Officers were served food catered by La Cazuela Mexican Restaurant.  There were all the fixings for steak and chicken fajitas, nachos, beans, and rice. One Buford mom bought six dozen bundtinis or little miniature bundt cakes and donated them to the officers’ meal.  The little cakes came in a variety of flavors and were topped with a cream cheese frosting.

Little cakes called Bundtinis were purchased and donated by another Buford resident which were enjoyed by the officers on July 2. Photo – Alicia Couch Payne

The whole event was coordinated by Kristina Miller, a Buford resident and mother who had a couple of positive interactions with a Gwinnett County Police Officer.  The officer along with others weighed heavily on her heart and she just knew she wanted to organize something to show the law enforcement officers that protect and serve the Buford area just how much they are appreciated.

Miller reached out to others within the Buford community to see if they would like to join her in showing their appreciation for all that the officers do for the community.  The response was quick and over 12 families donated money to have the meal catered while another purchased the little cakes for their dessert.

Officers coming off of long shifts, as well as, those going on duty filled their plates full of food and began to dig into their meal.  Good spirited joking began to take place.  Stories were being shared about experiences had.  Family members’ well-being was asked about.  Upcoming vacations were a subject of envy for those not leaving town to escape the stress. Conversations that any other American whether civilian or not would have had with a co-worker or friend.

The mood would occasionally sober up as discussions about current events would come up.  Officers were quick to denounce the actions of the few bad officers like the officers involved in the murder of George Floyd.  Each one had recently experienced the sheer negativity and dislike being levied at law enforcement officers across the country first-hand.  

They admitted to feeling the strain of the job and that the morale at the precinct was at an all-time low. While their jobs have always been filled with danger, that risk has increased dramatically during recent weeks.  One could see the concern in their eyes as they discussed their fears and that of their loved ones.  

Listening to the chatter around the room, one could get a good sense of the man or woman, the human being behind the badge.  They have lives, loved ones, hopes, fears, achievements, and disappointments just like every other human to walk on this Earth.  

Each officer’s reason as to why they chose to be a law enforcement officer is as different and diverse as the officers are themselves.  One younger gentleman got into law enforcement because it had always been a dream of his ever since he could remember while a veteran female supervisor said she was once a 9-1-1 call center operator and at the time there wasn’t a female officer on the force in Lawrenceville.  A sexual assault victim was brought in and officers asked the call center operator to step in to assist the victim.  It was a pivotal moment in her life and she realized a calling to help others and enrolled in the Gwinnett County Police Academy.

No matter how or why each officer ended up coming to be a law enforcement officer stationed at the north precinct, each one said they felt a calling to serve their community.  The officers began to share stories of memorable interactions with the citizens that they served. Some of the best people they recalled were not upper-class citizens but rather people who were at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale. It was clear that the officers know and respect the people that they have sworn an oath to protect and serve.  

As bellies filled up and time began to run out, sentiments of gratitude towards the Buford residents that made the meal possible were made.  The meal wasn’t just a meal for these men and women in blue.  It was a silent pat on the back, a hug, a sign of support and appreciation.

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