SANDY — Gregory Johnson had just dropped off his children at school Tuesday when he heard the news about the shooting death of police Lt. Charles Gliniewicz in a Chicago suburb.
"I thought to myself, 'There's a 5-year-old little girl and 12-year-old boy who don't have a dad today because he wore a (police) uniform,'" he recalled.
Johnson is president of Standing Together, a coalition of about 80 evangelical churches in northern Utah. He decided Wednesday he wanted to do something about the recent and seemingly random shootings of police officers around the country, including one last week in Layton.
On Friday, Johnson's desire to do something resulted in more than 100 Utahns rallying in support of law enforcement officers outside six police stations along the Wasatch Front.
"Why don't we make a positive story before tragedy strikes?" he said. "Our law enforcement are not perfect people, and they have a high-stress job. The least we could do is say thank you."
In Clearfield, Clinton, Draper, Provo, Sandy and West Valley City, members of several churches held signs Friday supporting the work of police officers and asking motorists driving by to do the same.
"(Motorists') first impression was, 'What are they fighting? What are they against?'" Johnson said. But when they saw the signs supporting officers, "a lot of them had smiles they wouldn't otherwise have."
Sieg Krueger, pastor of Mountain View Christian Assembly in Sandy, rallied outside the Sandy Police Department with his wife.
"It breaks your heart, what's going on," Krueger said. "We can't do everything, but we wanted to do something to show appreciation for our police."
Michelle Bethune, whose husband works for Unified Police in Kearns, also rallied in Sandy on Friday. Bethune said she's frustrated by what seems to be an anti-police sentiment in the United States.
"(My family) has been like, 'Wait a minute. My life matters. Police lives matter,'" she said.
Johnson said he wanted to keep political messaging out of Friday's rallies. He said the purpose wasn't to pick a side in the controversial police shootings in Ferguson, Missouri, and elsewhere over the past year.
"I'm not weighing the rightness or wrongness of any of those situations," he said. "Nobody's denying there are bad cops. Ninety-nine percent of them are good men and women doing a great thing."
Respect for a authority is a spiritual principle that motivates Johnson's gratitude for police officers, he said.
"We believe that's a biblical notion," Johnson said. "We're to honor authority and those who are in a position of authority."
Michelle Lehman held a sign Friday's rally in Sandy saying she was grateful to be protected by police. The wide range of day-to-day work that officers perform is unseen and often unappreciated, she said.
"I think there's a lot of negativity about police officers," Lehman said. "I appreciate knowing in the middle of the night, there's someone you can call, and they will come and lay their life on the line for you."