Rifle shows support for law enforcement

Ryan Hoffman
Law enforcement and team members from Micro Plastics in Rifle stand outside the business on a sunny Friday morning. From left to right: Officer José Valadez, Rifle Police Chief John Dyer, Christina Winkler, Randy Winkler, Jody Winkler, Officer Sara Flores, Officer Dustin Marantino, and Robin Steffen, Rifle Police Department office manager.
Ryan Hoffman / Citizen Telegram |

A growing number of cars in Mesa County are sporting a strip of blue painters tape across the back windshield. The tape is a symbol of solidarity and support for law enforcement following the death of Mesa County Sheriff’s Deputy Derek Geer, who was killed in the line of duty on Feb. 8.

The “blue line,” as it’s called, is heading east into Garfield County thanks in part to Rifle-based Micro Plastics Inc. The graphics, signs and design company is installing blue line car decals on people’s private vehicles free of charge.

The company’s owners, Randy and Jody Winkler, are encouraging motorists to stop by the business, located at 531 Railroad Ave., on Wednesday and Saturday to have a thin, removable decal placed horizontally on the back windshield.

Jody said ordering and installing the decals is just a small way the business can give back to the community — the type of gesture that any community member with the means to do so would do.

“You have to do those things for the community,” she said.

Randy Winkler, who outside of the business serves as the mayor of Rifle, said he first heard about the blue lines through a production artist whose father is a retired law enforcement officer. Not knowing if distributing the decals was even a proper thing to do, Randy said he called the Rifle Police Department to gain some feedback.

Robin Steffen, department office manager, said she was seeing the blue lines everywhere in Mesa County, especially in Grand Junction, where she attended the services for Deputy Geer.

Geer was kept on life support for several days after the shooting so that his organs could be donated. A 15-year veteran of the department, Geer was married and had two children. A homeless teen is charged in his slaying.

For law enforcement officers, the gesture means a great deal, said Rifle Police Chief John Dyer.

That feeling is all the more palpable, Dyer added, given some of the high-profile incidents involving law enforcement across the country, which have brought added scrutiny.

Rifle officers, including Dustin Marantino, say being in a smaller community lends itself to more personal relationships with people and broader support for law enforcement.

However, the recent national headlines run juxtaposed to a spate of what Marantino said feels like a spike in violence against law enforcement.

Weeks after Geer was shot, Cpl. Nate Carrigan was killed and two other officers were wounded in a shootout in Bailey. The Park County deputies were serving an eviction notice.

According to Officer Down Memorial Page Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to honoring America’s fallen law enforcement, four Colorado law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in 2015. One was attributed to gunfire, another was due to being struck by a vehicle, and vehicular assault was listed as the cause of death for the other two in 2015, according to Officer Down.

That number was up from two Colorado law enforcement deaths in the line of duty in 2014. And so far in 2016 the number of law enforcement deaths in Colorado stands at three — all attributed to gunfire.

“I don’t know that we’ve ever had this many funerals for law enforcement in a long time,” Marantino said.

Patrol Sgt. Kirk Wilson, Geer’s brother-in-law, said the outpouring of support for law enforcement, including the visual of the blue lines, is a reminder that law enforcement deals with only a small number of people.

The recent tragic events involving law enforcement in Colorado have led to a flood of support at the Rifle Police Department, including cards from school children and baked goods from community organizations, Steffen said.

Dyer and others stated their appreciation to the Winklers and Micro Plastics for the blue line campaign.

The decal is already appearing on some cars, including those belonging to Harlan and Gloria Hall.

The Halls learned about the decals through their son, Rifle Police Officer José Valadez.

“We try to support our local police department any way we can,” Harlan said.

The decal installation is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

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