- Associated Press - Saturday, June 20, 2015

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - An Omaha campaign that began as a way to show support for police is now raising thousands of dollars for youth sports and other causes championed by Officer Kerrie Orozco, who was killed in the line of duty last month.

The Omaha Police Department launched the Support Blue campaign in March in the wake of negative public sentiment following a number of highly publicized police-involved shootings around the country.

After Orozco’s death on May 20 at the hands of a fugitive who was also killed, the campaign began printing up T-shirts. Most, including a shirt emblazoned with “Keep Calm and Kerrie On,” sell for $20. A “Support Blue” T-shirt sells for $15.

Omaha police have been manning a booth selling the T-shirts at the NCAA Men’s College World Series, selling $22,000 worth in the first week of the series.

Debi Baratta, 51, of Omaha, and her husband bought two of the shirts Thursday at the booth, adding to others they had bought earlier in the month.

“We just came back from Vegas, and people there even knew about it,” Baratta said. “People will stop me all the time and ask me where I got my shirt.”

Two weeks ago, Omaha police sold $23,000 worth of the T-shirts at the Taste of Omaha food festival.

Some famous faces have also gotten behind the effort, with the Support Blue website featuring pictures of country singer Garth Brooks and Omaha’s own billionaire investor Warren Buffett holding “#SupportBlue” signs.

“People are hungry for good news and to support Kerrie and to see positive change,” Lt. Darci Tierney, spokeswoman for the Omaha Police Department, said.

The profits will go to support organizations that Orozco held dear, like youth sports in north Omaha. Orozco coached a Boys and Girls Club baseball team in north Omaha for four years before her death. The kids she coached knew her simply as “Coach K.” Orozco also volunteered with the Special Olympics and the Latino Peace Officers Association.

Colleagues say Orozco often handed out trinkets, like police pins, to children in an effort to get them to see officers as protectors, not adversaries.

At Orozco’s funeral, Police Chief Todd Schmaderer highlighted that effort and encouraged other officers to follow her lead.

The fundraising efforts have helped serve that purpose, Tierney said.

“We get to be out in the public and talking to people and just getting that one-on-one with people,” she said.

Officer Angie Lydon, who graduated from the police academy with Orozco in 2007, has been helping work the CWS booth.

Orozco’s death has highlighted that police work is sometimes deadly, she said. But it’s also renewed a sense of purpose among those on the force, she said.

“To help another human being - it’s what we’re here for,” Lydon said.



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