- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 24, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - Rocker Jon Bon Jovi donned a New York Police Department T-shirt on stage. Well-wishers delivered home-baked cookies by the hundreds to police in Cincinnati. In Mooresville, North Carolina, police and sheriff’s officers were treated by residents to a chili dinner.

At a time when many in the nation’s police community feel embattled, Americans in cities and towns across the country are making an effort to express support and gratitude.

“I’m showing a little solidarity for my brothers in the NYPD and all of those who protect and serve us every day,” Bon Jovi told a cheering crowd at his concert Monday in Red Bank, New Jersey.

The surge of support is linked to two distinct but overlapping developments.

The immediate catalyst was the killings of two New York City police officers as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn on Saturday. For many of those making appreciative gestures, there also was a desire to counter the widespread protests - steeped with criticism of police - that followed grand jury decisions not to charge white officers for their roles in the deaths of black men Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York.

Becky Grizovic, of Walton, Kentucky, helps orchestrate a campaign called Cookies for a Cop that provides treats to officers in more than 200 departments in 23 states. She was joined by her husband, son and a neighbor in delivering cookies to Cincinnati police stations on Monday.

At the District 2 station house, Capt. Jeffrey Butler said the gesture was especially appreciated in light of the deaths of the two officers in New York.

“The reason that this started is that I’ve just been so disheartened by the news,” Grizovic said in a phone interview. “I wanted to do something positive to lift their spirits because this is so hard on all of them.”

Rallies and vigils in support of police have taken place recently in several locations, including Nashville, Tennessee; West Orange, New Jersey; Annapolis, Maryland, and New York City’s Riverdale neighborhood.

Among those gathering Monday night in Nashville was Merri Puckett, a retired police officer.

“The police are really taking a hard hit right now,” she told The Tennessean newspaper. “Ninety-nine percent of the officers out there are doing a good job, and it’s a thankless job and they need to know that the public supports them.”

In Minden, Nevada, there was a one-man rally in support of local officers.

John Munk, a retired sheriff’s deputy, stood in front of the post office with a sign reading, “God Bless Law Enforcement.”

“It’s disheartening how people are treating law enforcement across the country,” Munk told the Record-Courier of nearby Gardnerville. “I wanted to do this to show what a great community we have here.”

Another former officer, Rick Goforth, was the chef and organizer for Monday night’s dinner in Mooresville, North Carolina, for which he served up 30 quarts of chili.

“I told the chief … loosen your gun belt, man,” Goforth joked with a reporter from Charlotte’s WCNC-TV.

The police chief, Carl Robbins, said it’s been a difficult time for officers, particularly after the two deaths in New York.

In New York’s bustling Times Square, several officers reported that people on the street were shouting out words of encouragement - a sound they weren’t hearing before the weekend killings.

“It’s uplifting,” said one officer, who - under NYPD rules - was not supposed to do media interviews while on street duty.

On Staten Island, the New York borough where Eric Garner died after being placed in an officer’s chokehold, artist Scott LoBaido created a large, illuminated outdoor sculpture in tribute to the two slain police officers. In Indianapolis and some other localities, Facebook campaigns were urging people to adorn their porches with blue lights in support of local police.

For the moment, the deaths of the two New York City officers has somewhat muted the long-running protest campaign sparked by the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. However, a coalition of groups involved in those protests has signaled they will persevere.

“We continue to see elected officials and police leadership twist this tragedy into an opportunity for them to silence the cries for justice from families who have lost their loved ones to police violence,” said the coalition, which includes Ferguson Action and Youth United for Change. “Our families matter, too.”

___

Associated Press writers Larry Neumeister, Tom Hays and Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.

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