Advocacy leader looks to thank 50,000 police officers
By Richard Gaw
For the past several years, Susan Rzucidlo, founder and director of SPEAK Unlimited, Inc., has collaborated with police departments across the state and the nation.
In fact, throughout her career as an advocate for families, police have been a nearly constant presence in Rzucidlo's life. Through her nonprofit agency, she has collaborated with former New Garden Police Chief Kevin McCarthy in co-creating the Pennsylvania Premise Alert System in 2008, that allows police officers to better communicate with people who are in an emergency health situation. Working side-by-side with police officers, she created a program that trains emergency responders to help those with mental or physical disabilities. She provided information and recommendations to the Pennsylvania State Police regarding school safety and mental health services, which have been used in a statewide safety evaluation program.
In that time, Rzucidlo's roll-up-the-sleeves work with law enforcement has been a relationship built on ideas and supported by the bedrock of law enforcement, but when the images of Ferguson, Missouri and State Island, New York began to burn into the nation's consciousness last year, Rzucidlo saw that bedrock crumbling. The questionable actions of a few officers, she felt, were beginning to unfairly drag millions of other officers down into the quagmire of dissent, division and racial divide.
Rzucidlo knew that it would be impossible for her to approach every single officer in Pennsylvania and thank them for their hard work and dedication to keeping the citizens of their town or municipality safe -- after all, there are more than 25,000 active police officers in the state and several thousand retired officers -- so she came up with a far more feasible method of sending thanks.
SPEAK Unlimited, Inc. has printed 50,000 thank you business cards that Rzucidlo intends to send to every active and non-active police officer in Pennsylvania. On one side, the card reads:
For as long as people show valor in their actions to protect others, there will be hope for our society. Thank you for your service.
The other side of the card is left blank, leaving room for each sender to write a small message for the officer who receives the card.
"You can walk up to a police officer and yell and scream, and they'll know just what to do, but when walk up to a police officer and tell them, 'Thank you,' they're shocked," Rzucidlo said. "People don't thank our officers enough. With everything that's happened recently, I think we need to do a better job of improving relations between law enforcement and our citizens."
With the cards now printed, Rzucidlo is sending out an all-points bulletin to anyone who is interested in being a part of a writing campaign. Her goal is to send 30,000 cards inscripted with messages, and retain an additional 20,000 cards, so that volunteers can personally hand them to officers they know or come in contact with.
Several scout and school groups have already signed on; in fact, one girl scout has already written 500 messages, Rzucidlo said. Once she receives the written cards, she will mail them to each police department in the state, so that each officer has a card of his or her own to keep. Ideally, she said her goal is get the cards into the hands of police officers during National Police Week, from May 10-16.
"I wholeheartedly believe that the majority of police officers are caring, professional, compassionate men and women who work every day to protect us," Rzucidlo said. "We wanted to expand our reach by creating this petition to give people a chance to express their support."
There is no cost to become involved with the project. To learn more about the police card initiative or to become involved, contact Susan Rzucidlo at (610) 659-3145, or by e-mail at SPEAKSusan@gmail.com.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.