By Jessica Easthope
All the letters read the same, but for Coretta James, every police officer’s individual dedication deserves a thank you.
“I saw the tough job that they have and I just wanted to encourage them and let them know they have support out there,” Coretta said, “that not everyone is against them and they’re not the enemy.”
Since 2017, Coretta has been on a mission to hand write a thank you card to every single officer in the NYPD. So far, she’s delivered 4,000 letters and with every stroke of her pen: the officer; detective; sergeant; lieutenant; captain; or chief that gets a letter knows there’s someone out there rooting for them.
“They put on that uniform to serve us and as a civilian I don’t take that for granted,” Coretta said.
Coretta, who came to the U.S. from Antigua at 16, never seals the envelopes. She adds in the name of every officer when she gets to a precinct and she says the personal touch makes all the difference.
“A smile, a hug from an officer,” she said, “or they say ‘I’m going to take a picture of this and send it to my wife’ or ‘I’m going to put this in my locker so I can always look at it.’ It’s rewarding.”
There wasn’t one event that sparked her passion, but Coretta says with recent racial tension across the country, police officers have become the target. More than 5,300 NYPD officers retired or resigned in 2020. That’s up 75 percent from 2019. Though Coretta acknowledges there are cops that don’t always do the right thing, she’s not letting that stop her.
“I can’t let that deter me because that’s a few,” she said, “few officers, because no one can be all bad.”
Another way in which Coretta says the good far outweighs the bad? The responses she’s gotten from the public, especially as a person of color. She’s had people send her threats, even wishing her carpal tunnel.
“These comments show me that I’m on the right side and I’m not changing sides,” Coretta said.
She has a long way to go before all 36,000 NYPD officers get a thank you. She says her faith has allowed her to not just feel compassion toward these members of service but to act on it.
Each letter ends with words she believes with all her heart.