CARBONDALE — Nicole Gusentine wants to make sure police officers in Southern Illinois feel supported so she’s asking brothers and sisters in blue to join a freshly chartered Southern Illinois police auxiliary group.
Gusentine helped charter the Southern regional FOP Auxiliary in late summer last year and currently serves as its president. She said there are five board members and 15 other members ranging from Marion to Herrin. One member represents an officer on the SIU force.
“You’re not alone, we’re here with you. We support you and you’re doing a great job,” Gusentine said of the group’s message to police officers.
Gusentine’s husband, Karl Gusentine, is a lieutenant in the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office and until last year served as the president of the local FOP. She said in attending some of those FOP meetings, she thought to herself how great it would be to marshal more support for the officers in the area.
“We need to have something to help encourage the police officers,” she recalled thinking.
Knowing this support exists can be buoying for officers, Marion Police Chief David Fitts said.
“Just knowing that people still do support us and care helps a lot,” Fitts said.
Though the climate for law enforcement has been turbulent in the last year with scrutiny placed on officers following high-profile shooting deaths, Fitts said officers in Southern Illinois are fortunate because many in the region stand behind the police.
Gusentine said she wants to host events to raise funds for community-support initiatives like scholarships or disaster relief.
This is something the Fraternal Order of Police has long done for members and Gusentine said she and others want to assist that effort. She anticipates a lot of back-and-forth cooperation between the local FOP shops and the regional auxiliary.
“We will work real close with the FOP and help with their needs,” she said.
Still, it’s hard accomplishing big goals with low member rolls, so Gusentine said she’s setting the goal to get 50 new members by the end of the summer.
An application is required for membership, she said, but is open to parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, siblings over 18 and spouses of FOP members in good standing.
For more information search for Southern Region FOP Auxiliary on Facebook.
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