The founders of the Facebook group Blue 815, which was formed to honor fallen police officers after the death of Rockford Officer Jaimie Cox, shifted their focus after an effort to rename the Morgan Street bridge fell through.
Tonya Cassatarink, Andrea Cox, and Lauri Gessner are just some of the faces behind Blue 815, and each has a different reason for being a part of it. All hope the social media platform puts a face to the men and women who wear the badge.
“They are our family members. They are our friends. They are the people we hang out with to play volleyball, who come over and swim and cook out, and they’re just people, too,” Cassatarink said.
The group counts 2,000 members and it’s growing, creating a space where the communtiy can uplift the men and women of law enforcement.
“We’ve seen an outpouring of support and interest, and we’ve had people reaching out to us saying, ‘What can we do?’ And so, I think if they’re coming to us for that, our message is getting out there,” said Cox.
The organizers host fundraisers and collect donations from the community, and hand-deliver them to law enforcment officers, such as the “Blessing Bags” they recently gave to Illinois State Police District 16 in Pecatonica, in honor of Trooper Brooke Jones-Story, who was killed in a vehicle wreck on the shoulder of U.S. 20 near Freeport.
“It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it really is,” Gessner said. “Because it just takes one act of kindness to change someone’s whole perspective on life.”
Rockford Police Deputy Chief John Pozzi says the outpouring of support surrounding social media platforms like Blue 815 reaches them on a different level.
“What this organization is helping to promote is, that we are a part of this community,” he said. “It actually lets the community know that we do much more than just police a community. We give back. We serve, we donate, we volunteer.”
Still coping with the loss of her cousin, Cox says it’s the people behind organizations like Blue 815 that motivate her to do more.
“If there’s anything good that can come out of losing your family member in that way, it’s meeting good people that you can do good things with,” she said.
Blue 815 is working toward becoming a non-profit organization to continue building trust between law enforcement and the community, something they hope to have finalized by this Summer.