An Interview with Rocky Galassini and the Otero County Law Enforcement Appreciation Committee

Panorama group shot of Otero County Law Enforcement

Last week, as the nation celebrated National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, Aftermath had the pleasure of visiting with Rocky Galassini, organizer of the Otero County Law Enforcement Appreciation Committee. OCLEAC is concerned with the well-being of certified law enforcement officers in the Otero County, New Mexico area. The group’s year-round efforts serve as a great inspiration to other communities; we were excited to learn about OCLEAC’s formation and what the organization means to Otero County law enforcement.

What is OCLEAC?

According to Rocky, OCLEAC creates opportunities for residents to show their appreciation of local law enforcement through small gestures, and by hosting events for officers and their families. “Officers are our front line at home,” Rocky says. “They fight the battle every day. They see right into the eyes of those who are in trouble, but they are still protecting them, too. We should be in awe of how amazing these people are who are protecting us.”

Rocky comes by her passion honestly. Her husband is a retired officer, and she remains connected with the law enforcement community through many friendships she has forged over the years. “I come from a blue blood family myself, so I have witnessed first hand what law enforcement families have to endure. The appreciation committee exists as much to support them as it supports the officers.

Rocky started OCLEAC in 2014 after noticing a disconnect between officers and the local community around her hometown of Alamogordo, NM. “I just wanted to do something to show the officers we appreciate them. The 12th Judicial District Law Enforcement Association used to host a yearly banquet, and one year it simply stopped. I made calls to 16 local law enforcement agencies around the county and 4 months later, there was a banquet again. The Committee came together naturally after that.”

More than Just a Yearly Dinner

Thanks to Rocky and OCLEAC, the banquet tradition continues alongside other efforts. The dinner brings in guest speakers who, Rocky says, “can get on a level with the officers and their concerns, and make them feel like they’re not alone.” Previous guests include Dan Bongino, Secret Service Agent and former NYPD, and Randy Sutton, spokesperson for Blue Lives Matter. This year’s event features YouTube celebrity and comedian, Mike the Cop.

OCLEAC also makes gift baskets for officers and organizes other local events. Last year this included celebrating National Thank a Police Officer Day, a yearly holiday that falls on the third Saturday in September. They also hosted a Picnic in the Park for the officers, their families, and members of the community. It included a carnival, K9 demonstrations, great food, and plenty of opportunities to socialize and connect with neighbors.

OCLEAC operates a website and a Facebook group, which they use to encourage area residents to get to know their local LE. “The 3rd Thursday of the month is Step Out in Blue Day,” Rocky reports. “We update followers with reminders and suggest ways they can show their gratitude through simple interactions, including carrying stickers to say thank you or passing out blue line bracelets to officers.”

The group also created a scholarship fund for law enforcement families, sponsoring both college and daycare scholarships. OCLEAC has a 501(c)3 designation for several years, meaning it can accept donations. Recently, Aftermath surprised the group a $1000 grant, which Rocky says will be put toward the scholarship fund.

Who is Involved?

OCLEAC has a team of dedicated members who recruit other volunteers for specific projects and special events. According to Rocky, the core members are Amy Barela, Riana Eaton, AnnMarie Hernandez, Audra Smith, Cambri Syling, Daron Syling, Dian Nix, Diana Powell, Doyle Syling, Johnny Powell, Lavonne Davis, Lorrie Black, Rhonda Cross, Theda Harshey, and Vickie Marquardt.

The committee currently works with official law enforcement partners in the Otero County New Mexico area. The list includes numerous federal, state, and local agencies: the Alamogordo Police Department, Otero County Sheriffs Dept, Unites Stated Border Patrol, United States Forest Service, Cloudcroft Police Department, Tularosa Police Department New Mexico State Police & New Mexico Commerical Vehicle Enforcement, New Mexico Game & Fish, White Sands Park Police, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 12th Judicial District Attorney’s Office Law Enforcement, Mescalero Conservation the 49th Security Forces HAFB and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations

Interested in Starting Your Own Appreciation Committee?

Rocky encourages other communities to take initiative and do as she has in Otero County. “Contact your local certified law enforcement agencies, learn about how many agencies are in the community, and get to know who they are. Ask if they would like a public showing of appreciation, then ask friends and neighbors if they are interested in getting a group started. It takes just one person to step up and lead – lots of people will be happy to help.”

Many existing local groups may be interested in assisting with the project as well.  “In Otero County, schools do cards for the officers. Churches host BBQs or share meals or grill for officers. Families bake cookies and bring a card. For the officers, it’s overwhelming to know that people do care.” Rocky stresses that involving kids in giving thanks is important. “Forging a positive relationship with law enforcement will help them the rest of their lives.”

As for the officers themselves, their thanks is enough to keep Rocky going: “The officers are always thankful and appreciative. In my opinion, we should all be giving back, however we can. They already give so much to us. That’s just my philosophy.”

The officers have certainly noticed Rocky’s efforts. “Last year they told me I’d done enough,” she laughs.