By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
Yukon Police personnel are seeing an outpouring of community support and encouragement amid rioting and anti-police protests across the country.
The May 25th death of George Floyd in Minnesota and other high-profile incidents have prompted some groups to call for defunding local police departments.
Four Minneapolis police officers have been charged in connection with Floyd’s killing, and the incident triggered demonstrations against police brutality, racism and lack of accountability.
Yukon-area residents and business owners have been showing their support for the Yukon Police Department in the wake of these protests and calls to reduce or even eliminate law enforcement budgets.
“I’m not surprised anymore at the community support that we get,” Yukon Police Chief John Corn said. “It’s a really good feeling for our officers to know how much support they have within the community.
“You have a national conversation about communities cutting funding to policing. We have a community in Norman that just took almost $1 million from their police department out of salary and benefits.”
Yukon Mayor Shelli Selby stands firmly behind the YPD.
“When I watched the video of George Floyd being murdered, I immediately thought of our police and how safe I felt knowing something like that would never happen in Yukon,” Selby said.
Selby, who became mayor last month, met with Chief Corn so she’d know how the department’s officers are trained.
“What I found was that our police are trained far about the set standard,” Selby said. “But more than that, we live in the same community and see our officers as our neighbors and friends.
“Are there bad cops? Yes. But not in Yukon.”
Among recent acts of generosity was the delivery on Wednesday of pizzas and brownies for Yukon’s police personnel. Billy Bajema, a former Oklahoma State University and National Football League star, personally brought the gifts to the police station.
“With all that’s going on, we wanted to let the police here in Yukon know that we appreciate them, and they are making a difference,” said Bajema, who owns Pie 5 Pizza in Stone Mill Plaza. “We just wanted to show our gratitude for all that they do.”
Yukon’s police department has an excellent reputation, the Super Bowl champion and local business owner added.
“They come out when we call them for our business, and they do a lot to protect our community,” Bajema said. “I think the Yukon community is fully behind them and we’re thankful for the safety that they’ve brought to the citizens and businesses here.
“This is just a little gesture to show that we appreciate them.”
A HUGE IMPACT
Chief Corn thanked Bajema for his constant support of the police department and local schools – and this week’s surprise pizza delivery.
“To have people in the business community show up and do things like this, it instills in our officers that they’re doing a good job,” Corn said. “And they are being thought of in a different light – not being yelled out, ridiculed or called a name on the side of the road.
“This makes a huge impact.”
Yukon’s police chief is especially grateful for support of local businesses like Pie 5 Pizza, many of which have struggled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdown.
Bajema’s business kept its drive-through lane open and saw a spike in traffic.
“I did drive-through several times,” Corn said. “My wife’s addicted to Pie 5. That’s her go-to pizza place. She likes to order on-line, drive through and pick up.
“We (as police) couldn’t maintain the attitude and the drive to go do it every day – in light of all the conflict and controversy – if we didn’t have people like Billy and his business supporting us. It makes all the difference in the world.”
Chief Corn expressed gratitude that Yukon’s city leadership and the public are demonstrating their backing of local law enforcement.
“We have businesses and other supporters showing up daily saying, ‘What can we do for you?’,” he said. “We have a council that backs the department and backs the officers. There hasn’t been one conversation about cutting our funding to do police work within this community. Right now, that’s a huge deal.”
Yukon has been declared one of the safest cities in the state and country, and Mayor Selby said that’s due – in part – to “our amazing police.”
Yukon’s mayor was at the latest protest rally in Yukon to support people’s right to free speech.
“I was also there showing my support for the police,” she said. “I talked about them to everyone. I was very proud of the police’s support in allowing a rally and for the way the protestors behaved in a peaceful manner.”