With National Police Week well underway, Conway officers are gearing up for the Fallen Officer Memorial program and also looking back on why the joined law enforcement.
Former President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day in 1962 and also designated the week it falls on as National Police Week.
Law enforcement officers play an important role in safeguarding the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and protect daily the lives of those across the nation, Kennedy announced in his 1962 proclamation.
"It is important that our people know and understand the problems, duties, and responsibilities of their police departments and the necessity for cooperating with them in maintaining law and order," the proclamation reads in part. "it is fitting and proper that we express our gratitude for the dedicated service and courageous deeds of law enforcement officers and for the contributions they have made to the security and well-being of all our people."
On Sunday, the Conway Police Department took to social media to remind the public National Police Week would kick off Monday.
CPD spokesman LaTresha Woodruff asked area residents to take time to thank local law enforcement, adding that officers always do their best to build relationships with and keep the community safe.
Police week gives the public the opportunity to honor law enforcement officers "for all they do and all that they've done," she said.
"Police officers do more than enforce the laws and keep our community safe -- they are best buddies, they give rides on shoulders, they volunteer at schools, take part in fundraisers, hang out in the neighborhood, they offer hugs and [are] a listening ear," Woodruff said. "They are counselors, comedians, they grant wishes, they're animal whisperers and so much more."
Lt. Mike Welsh has served the community as a law enforcement officer for 27 years. Twenty-three years of his career have been spent serving CPD.
Welsh became inspired to take on a path in law enforcement as a teenager.
He met quite a few officers while working in a sporting goods store and also at a grocery store between the ages of 16 and 21 that he grew to know and respect through the years.
"We had many customers in law enforcement. I always enjoyed talking to them," he said. "They all seemed to be happy about work and they were contributing to making my neighborhood safe. I admired them for their service and wanted to make the same contribution."
It's not difficult to keep motivated on the job as one who enjoys communicating with others and also educating them on how police work is carried out, Welsh said.
"I like to talk," he admitted. "This career gives me the opportunity to interact with many people on a daily basis. I also enjoy educating them on the reality of law enforcement and not the perception given by TV shows and movies."
While many are quick to make "snap decisions" based on what they heard in the news or saw on social media that paint law enforcement in a negative light, Welsh said he remains open and keeps a positive outlook on public relations.
"Many people think that if someone took the time to say it or write it, it must be true. I try to keep an open mind and understand their perspective but I also ask that they do the same," he said. "If both sides can do that, we have a better opportunity to find understanding and peace."
Community involvement plays a vital role in maintaining positive relationships among LEOs and the public.
Without it, Welsh said it would be difficult to accomplish much.
By keeping the relationship open, it becomes easier to serve. And, it makes a huge difference when residents feel comfortable communicating with local law enforcement, Welsh said.
Sometimes, those types of relationships and rapport can make or break a case.
"We all have to look out for one another and we must help take a stand to right any wrongs," Welsh told the Log Cabin Democrat. "There have been many times I could not complete an investigation or task because others who could help refused to do so. They thought it wasn't their place to be involved in someone else's business, didn't care or were too scared to say something. Get involved. Take a stand. Help us help others."
Through his years in the field, he has moved up the ranks and also watched as others earned promotions within the department.
Seeing this growth first hand has been rewarding, Welsh said.
"As a supervisor, it gives me great joy seeing those who worked with me get the opportunity to promote," he said. "While on vacation, one of my guys called and told me that he had just been promoted to sergeant. He thanked me for working with him and gave me some credit for helping him achieve his goal. Although I think he was being very generous, I was so proud of him."
Welsh said that while others progressed due to their own personal achievements, it was fulfilling to know that he played a small role in their career and helped influence officers within the department.
"I am so proud of them," he said.
Woodruff said it's important to also remember former and late officers during National Police Week.
In coordination with the national event, the department will host the Fallen Officer Memorial program at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Simon Park in downtown Conway. The ceremony honors local officers who have died during the line of duty.
"[P]lease join us as we pay tribute to those officers who made the ultimate sacrifice," Woodruff said.