CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland police officers who searched for, then eventually found Alianna DeFreeze, were honored at the Blessed Hope Missionary Baptist Church Sunday morning.
The church gave officers Marcus Cloud, Jamusca Britten, Kevin Walker, Willie Hodges, and Carl Perkins an award for their efforts in finding DeFreeze, who was murdered in January 2017.
“Based on what they saw it was very devastating, very horrific so we just wanted to reach out to them and let them know that we appreciate the work that they did and offer them some spiritual help,” said Assistant Pastor John Twymon.
Pastor John Twymon encouraged those in the congregation to pray for all police officers. Twymon is also working to build the bridge between police and the community.
“By giving them the opportunity to meet people in the areas they patrol we think that will help change some of the perceptions some may have of the officers and also some of the perceptions the officers have of the community,” Twymon said.
Damon DeFreeze, the father of Alianna DeFreeze, was also at the church. He was in tears at the outpouring of support for he and his wife, as well as the officers with whom he has developed strong relationships.
“They are like family. They have been there for a year with us now. When we could no longer stand the pain and hurt and the ‘what ifs’ while we were looking for Ali we would go home and huge each other and cry and they were out there in blizzard conditions still looking and still searching,” DeFreeze said.
Officer Willie Hodges was one of the officers out looking who discovered Alianna’s body.
“The night that it happened, that snowstorm, trying to find her because my partner and myself we had the flu that night so it was really hard for us. It was a long and tragic night for us,” Officer Hodges said.
Hodges said it felt great to be appreciated at the church.
“It means at whole lot because as I said earlier we have hard job some people just don’t realize it. They see on TV, negativity, but there are a lot of good things we do try to do we try to help our community but it’s less known and it’s really hard,” Hodges said.
Hodges said it is good to have an opportunity to get to know people in the areas he patrols without the pressure of a crime scene.
“We want to come communicate with people out there. We want to walk with them, talk with them we don’t want to always be on scene where something has to be going on. I just want to talk with you,” he said.
Sunday’s service also commemorated fallen officers, and those who celebrate and pray for police and community relations.