Talk to the Uniform!
You know the feeling: a police officer nears you and your stomach jumps into your throat? Why is that?
It’s Amber Barrett’s dream to change that reaction. She currently serves as the Public Information Officer for the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and her mission is to have our community view those in uniform differently. By the way, she is also the person who works to keep us all informed, 24/7, and up to date on all emergencies, big and small, that affect our beautiful piece of the world. Glenwood Canyon fire? Amber. Sylvan Lake fire? Amber. Poor, young, soul consumed by the river? Amber. Today, she is recognized as the Mountain Youth Difference Maker because of the other work she does.
Amber grew up with a cop, her dad. He was an officer in the Town of Vail for more than 30 years. For her, talking to the uniform was a regular occurrence. Think of all the times when you were young and talked to your dad while he was on the job. Now imagine him in a uniform. It never made a difference to Amber. Her dad, in the uniform and out, was someone she could trust, who she could ask questions, and who she could count on for help.
In the six and a half years that Amber has served us, she has worked to change the image that the uniform connotes. She started as the Evidence Officer and people around her soon realized she had a knack for speaking up. Not long after, she was asked to facilitate community events involving law enforcement and community partners. She jumped at that chance and was soon working on her dream: dissolving the myth that law enforcement is unapproachable, always official, and always out to get someone.
Next thing we know, events start popping up with cops in attendance all around the county. Events like Coffee with a Cop, Camp 911, the annual National Night Out, and so many others. Amber credits the team she works with and the deputies who participate and support the development and expansion of these types of events, but really, it boils down to Amber. She can remember specific successes like the time a community member at a Coffee with a Cop event said, “Thank you! Thank you to our local law enforcement who are regularly responding to calls involving 10% of the community while the other 90% of the community respects and appreciates their service!”. And, when a School Resource Officer recalled how particular high school students approach him to ask specific questions about illegal substances. She also remembers the days when deputies, in spite of earlier coaching, would still cluster together at events rather than mingle. Yes, she shooed them into place and they, too, discovered that community members have really nice things to say about their law enforcement personnel.
Amber’s dream is coming true. People are talking to the uniform much more now and it feels good. She has made a difference in our community, busting down a long-held barrier. Thanks, Amber, thanks to Amber’s dad, and thanks to our officers in uniform.
Written by Sandy Schroeder, Director of Community Engagement at Mountain Youth, email@example.com