The Pekin Police Department clarified a Monday evening post on its Facebook page.
In the Facebook post, the department requested that, for the time being, citizens not approach law enforcement officers to express gratitude for their service. Officer Billie Ingles, the department’s public information officer, stressed that the purpose of the request was not to ask citizens to refrain entirely from approaching police officers to express their gratitude, but to exercise discretion before doing so.
"We still want people to come up and thank us," Ingles stated. "We want to talk to people. We don’t want anything to change, but when we’re in the midst of doing our job and the situation’s a little more tense, it’s probably not the best time to approach us."
Ingles added that the request was made in response to tensions running high in the wake of nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
"With everything that was going on (Monday) night, (we really didn’t know) what was going to happen," said Ingles. "People were putting on social media that we were going to have a big presence of looters and rioters. So, we did beef up our law enforcement. We were still having people approach us (Monday) night, just letting us know that they appreciate us, and thanking (our officers) for being out there."
Pekin Police Chief John Dossey said that the department values its relationship with the community and continues to encourage interaction with its members.
"We’re just asking that, during this time of crisis, to utilize caution," said Dossey. "If we’re in the midst of dealing with a situation or an individual, (it is best) to not walk up on us."
It is especially important to be cautious about approaching officers at night, Ingles said. Visibility is lower than during the day, and it is more difficult for officers to identify a person approaching them or determine that person’ intent.