The relationship between law enforcement and the community they serve has been a social issue for America, but recently it has become more depressing. There is constant controversy about police brutality and crooked cops, and the situation continues to worsen. There are so many negative associations and assumptions surrounding law enforcement that some positive reinforcement is much needed. That’s where Humanizing the Badge comes in.
Humanizing the Badge is a non-profit organization that tries to help foster better relationships with police officers and the citizens they work to protect. The organization strives to furnace those relationships in a variety of ways, “We’re engaging that mission through community service projects on a national level (Project Human), providing free, confidential online support for first responders and their families that reach out to deal with the unique stresses of the job (the 227 Project) and engaging social media content through our pages and the pages of content creators that are part of our cause.”
Humanizing the Badge was founded in January 2015 by Elizabeth Ogden. Ogden said she was watching the Ferguson riots and was saddened by the apparent division when she realized she needed to start the organization. “I remember thinking that ‘someone’ should do something. It was in that moment that I realized I wasn’t doing anything to be a part of the change and realized that ‘someone’ was me,” she said.
Ogden is no stranger in the societal effort to raise awareness for the positive impacts of law enforcement communities. In 2014, she wrote “Dear Officer, I See You,” which delivers a message on better understanding of the work law enforcement officers and acknowledgement of their importance. Her message quickly became popular across social media and she used that drive to push her cause even further.
Ogden said Humanizing the Badge’s message is essentially, “To consistently rise about the chaos and seek truth on an individual basis. Don’t be part of the problem by using social media to create more divide. Find a way to get involved in your community and build bridges instead of setting them on fire.” What sets Humanizing the Badge apart from the majority of other organizations is their focus on emotion as members open up about topics that not everyone is willing to talk about. They aim to tackle the current situations, which is filled with fear and uncertainty, with genuine perspective and feelings.
Also the fact that members of the organization are like family contributes to the effectiveness of their work. “I love the people on my team like my own family. We’ve seen a lot together and even when we aren’t jiving 100 percent, we step out together with a common purpose. I’m only as strong as my team and I’m fortunate to have some of the strongest people I’ve ever met,” said Ogden. It’s refreshing to have an organization that is passionate about not only advancing a cause but also building trust, love and hope.
Ogden and Mike the Cop, co-founder of Humanizing the Badge, after the encounter at Pulse Club in Orlando, Florida, started Project Human. “I remember clearly telling Mike that I felt like we were being called to community development,” said Ogden. It is an opportunity for Humanizing the Badge to further their effort to spread positivity through community development. St. Louis, Detroit and San Diego are three cities they have helped so far. As with its parent organization, Project Human is bringing together communities and officers in a mixture of ways. Participants have fed the homeless, provided them with hair cuts, personal care items, showers, conducted neighborhood cleanup with focus on removing graffiti and providing home maintenance for families who can’t afford it and hosted events to help improve people’s understanding of police. Project Human will hopefully continue to help other communities with all the continued support Humanizing the Badge receives.
The 227 Project was inspired by a police officer that was killed in the line of duty in July 2010, Corporal Matthew Edwards, whose badge number was 227. In his honor, the program provides spiritual support and self-help information to the law enforcement community and their families. A mental health team under the Humanizing the Badge umbrella, known as the Call for Back Up program, is available to give confidential support when needed.
In addition to traditional fundraising, Humanizing the Badge implements some cutting-edge means to raise money. Board director, Officer Daniels, is notorious for hilarious police videos and getting the public involved. Daniels is passionate about connecting the public with law enforcement; his self proclaimed mission is, “Eat donuts. Fight the bad guys. Make awesome videos.” He has been known to perform outrageous stunts to raise money such as walking around the Vegas strip dancing crazily, coloring his hair pink, eating nasty flavored jelly beans and getting hit with a taser gun.
Daniels helps raise money for not only Humanizing the Badge, but also for other organizations that help law enforcement. He recently went to Houston, Texas, to help rebuild an officer’s house, which was damaged while he was helping the community, leaving him without a shelter. While in Houston, Daniels also performed a K-9 bite challenge on live video in which a police K-9 bit a fellow Humanizing the Badge contributor, Deputy Book’em, to raise money. They received a substantial amount of money through this fundraising campaign to help the Houston community. Daniels and the rest of the Humanizing the Badge team engage in such missions regularly and with conviction.
In addition to the unconventional ways of raising money, they also offer an assortment of merchandise on their website. From shirts, books, mugs to challenge coins, each item sports the Thin Blue Line colors and supportive law enforcement slogans. If you are not into buying merchandise, you can also just donate directly to their general operating fund through the site.
Police departments or communities reach out to Humanizing the Badge for support. Sometimes they receive a request or invitation as an organization; other times people ask for a specific speakers to come for events. The team is very responsive to people reaching out and are more than willing to help in any way they can.
What does the future hold for Humanizing the Badge? Ogden said, “I hope to see us continue to grow on a multi-national level that creates a health dialog in our communities and on our campuses.”