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Former VA governors join Liberty University in hosting appreciation event for local law enforcement

Campus Pastor Jonathan Falwell and Interim Dean of the School of Law Joseph Martins (kneeling), alongside law enforcement members from the community and former Virginia Govs. Bob McDonnell and George Allen

Former Virginia Govs. Bob McDonnell and George Allen spoke at a law enforcement appreciation luncheon on Friday, Oct. 29, hosted by Liberty University’s Helms School of Government and School of Law. Both former governors, alongside Liberty President Jerry Prevo and Campus Pastor Jonathan Falwell, bestowed a warm thank you to the many police officers, chiefs, and sheriffs in attendance for their dedicated and selfless service.

Multiple departments and agencies were represented, including Lynchburg Police Department, Appomattox County, Campbell County, Bedford County, State Police, and other local sheriffs and police chiefs. Others in attendance included Lynchburg PD Chief Ryan Zuidema and Liberty PD Chief Richard Hinckley.

The program comes as Liberty University celebrates its 50th Anniversary. Both schools, with support from the Provost’s Office, saw it fitting to celebrate the anniversary by giving thanks to the many men and women who uphold the law.

“This is a wonderful way for Liberty University to celebrate its 50 years — to give thanks,” said Allen, who served as Virginia’s Governor from 1994-98. “You are the ones who have to enforce the laws to make sure that we have safer schools, safer communities, and safer neighborhoods in which to live, learn, work, and to raise our families. … Thank you all for making Virginia a better place.”

Liberty President Jerry Prevo with local law enforcement officers

McDonnell said he is frustrated at the recent negative, inaccurate representation of law enforcement in our country, and of the many cities that have cut law enforcement funding and instilled additional policies that restrain police officers from doing their jobs.

“For these last 18 months, it makes me both angry and disappointed that there are people who have demonized you, who have not appreciated you,” said McDonnell, who served as governor for the Commonwealth from 2010-14. “It’s an outrage. It’s the dumbest public policy in government. But I’m here to tell you that, overwhelmingly, the people we see love you and respect you. … As two former governors, we’re going to do everything we can with the new administration, which I hope will be a pro-law enforcement administration, to fight against those kinds of policies that work against you.”

Liberty’s Vice President of Public Safety Ron Sloan, Sheriff of Lynchburg Don Sloan, and many members of the Liberty University Police Department were also in attendance.

Prevo commended Liberty University Police Department (LUPD) on having an exceptional relationship with local law enforcement agencies.

“I want you to know that we appreciate you putting your lives on the line, and we appreciate all that you’re doing, and we’re glad that you’re here today,” said Prevo to the law enforcement officers present. “Thank you for being here, God bless you, we appreciate you.”

Former VA Gov. Bob McDonnell

With an overwhelming number of vacancies in police departments nationwide, Liberty University has seen an uptick in enrollment in its criminal justice degree programs both residentially and online. Liberty currently has over 450 residential criminal justice students.

Liberty’s Associate Dean and Department Chair for Criminal Justice, Dr. Joel Cox, said many students at Liberty recognize the vocation as a call to service and an opportunity to make a difference. He also offered hope to the veteran officers in the room, telling them that Liberty is doing its part to equip the next generation of law enforcement officers with the same character and selflessness necessary to fill the vacancies.

“The laws that we pass, they’re just pieces of paper,” said Dean of the Helms School Robert Hurt, a former United States congressman. “You have to have somebody who’s willing to put on a uniform and enforce and make sure those laws apply equally, and that’s what I give thanks for. Even as hard it is to be in law enforcement, there are people willing to back up what it says on paper.”

Students from Smith Mountain Lake Christian Academy presented tokens of appreciation to the officers, including thank-you letters from the high school students and drawings from elementary students.

Former Virginia Govs. George Allen and Bob McDonnell with high school students from Smith Mountain Lake Christian Academy

“I just want to talk about how our law enforcement is definitely not thanked enough and how very unappreciated you guys are,” said Smith Mountain High School Senior Paris Williamson. “We often tend to take for granted the peace, tranquility, and safety that you guys provide us and our country. I’m able to walk around the mall freely without worrying about anything happening, kids are able to go play out in their front yard, parents are able to take their children to the park, and hundreds and thousands of people are able to attend sporting events every year. I think that these are things we don’t think about enough. So, with all that being said, I just want to tell you how extremely grateful we are for your sacrifice and service.”

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