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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ Adam Joy feels a strong kinship and support for the law enforcement community. Pastor at the Deeper Purpose Community Church, Elder Joy also serves as the Executive Director of the church's Deeper Purpose Kids Academy Learning Center.  He founded the church in 2017 while working at a different career. He was a police officer for 15 years, first with the City of Alachua for three years and then with the High Springs Police Department for 12 years. In 2021 he left the police force to put all his efforts into the church. “After much prayer and thought, I felt the church was my true calling and needed all my effort,” Joy said. To honor officers and raise awareness and support of all the duties and security they provide for their communities, he organized Back the Blue on March 12 at the High Springs Civic Center.

For several months, he contacted various agencies and gained volunteer services to create a family friendly event.  “We wanted to spread the message of support, love and being there for law enforcement community,” said Joy. “The fact is that law enforcement feels like community support has faded away over the last couple of years, so we need to show them we still have their backs and support them and we want them to have our backs as well.”

The event was open to everyone and the community came out to show their support and get to know their local law enforcement. Over 49 officers from multiple agencies were there, both to inform and interact with the public. Members of the High Springs Police Department, Alachua Police Department, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Gainesville Police Department, UF Police Department, Santa Fe College Police Department, Florida Highway Patrol, Florida Wildlife Commission, Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office were all represented.

Each department brought displays of their equipment and vehicles. The Alachua County Sheriff’s office brought their Bomb Squad vehicle and robots, an armored car and a bulldozer used in hostage situations. Gainesville Police Department brought examples of riot gear and personal protection while the Florida Highway Patrol brought a spinning car to show how quickly someone could be ejected from a rollover.  The High Springs Police Department put goggles on people that simulated impairment from alcohol as the person staggered and lost their sense of balance, much to the amusements of other spectators.

Departments also brought recruitment officers, hoping to interest adults in joining the force or staff positions.  “There has been a national trend of officers leaving their careers. While that has been true in many fields, law enforcement has been hit especially hard due to a number of factors including the pandemic, negative responses from the public, lack of funding and burnout from stress and PTSD among first responders,” Joy said. “So many of the departments are understaffed and looking to fill their positions.”

In addition to the focus on law enforcement, the event also included a family fun day.  Volunteer activities included a train ride for kids and free hot dogs from the High Springs Lions Club, Jump Houses from Jump Stars Party Rentals and Jumping Jacks Bounce house, a dunk tank and Face Painting by Tonya.  North Central Florida Ponies provided pony rides and a petting zoo.  DJ Cowboy Mike provided music and the Deeper Purpose Church also sponsored a Blue Fun Run where families had the opportunity to run and donate toward sponsoring two high school graduates from Alachua County who are interested in attending the Police Academy. There were several food trucks and vendors selling crafts and military clothing and patches.

The event had a chilly and windy start, but the weather warmed up for the crowds that attended through the event.  “We wanted to make it a fun event while providing information and interaction with the public to show them that law enforcement is part of the community and police officers are their neighbors to put a positive face on the departments,” said Joy.  “Each year we will host it in a different community in the county so all have an opportunity to bond with their law enforcement officers.”

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