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Spokane police host teenager who travels nationwide thanking officers

UPDATED: Tue., July 21, 2020

Savannah Solis, 15, told police, "You have value," in a speech she gave Thursday to thank police for their work.  (Maggie Quinlan / The Spokesman-Review)
Savannah Solis, 15, told police, "You have value," in a speech she gave Thursday to thank police for their work. (Maggie Quinlan / The Spokesman-Review)

Savannah Solis, 15, has traveled to 36 states with her parents since age 10 to thank police officers for their service.

Thursday, she reached Spokane’s Law Enforcement Memorial outside the Public Safety Building, nearly 2,000 miles away from her home state of Texas. There, she gave Spokane police officers and sheriff’s deputies handmade cards and a speech.

In a presentation given to about 20 law enforcement officers, Chief Craig Meidl and Mayor Nadine Woodward, she said she sees officers facing “hatred and bigotry,” and that she is “not content with being the silent majority.” She also promised to continue challenging her generation to see the value of police officers’ lives.

“If you’ve forgotten your ‘why,’ know I need you. Your community needs you,” Savannah said in her speech.

Meidl said it’s a message many officers in the Spokane Police Department need to hear, as he sees officers considering retirement before they’ve reached the status they might have prior to public opinion shifting about police.

“For most of us, this isn’t just a job, it’s a calling we’ve felt all our lives,” Meidl said. “So we need to hear that message: Remember before you got in the uniform and went on all these calls, what inspired you.”

While Solis did not directly address nationwide outrage about racial injustice in policing, she said for officers, “Sometimes it’s discouraging to see what’s on the news.”

Her mother, Debbie Solis, said their family, which includes many law enforcement officers, spoke out against “what happened,” referring to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“If you’re totally pro-officer, you need to listen to the other side,” Debbie said. “But it goes the other way, too.”

Savannah said she hasn’t received much flack from people her age about her message, though Debbie said she recently received her first rude comment this week, when Savannah was called “privileged” and “disgusting.”

Sgt. Teresa Fuller described Savannah as a “beacon for other kids.” Fuller approached Savannah after the event to thank her for coming, noting that her 13-year-old daughter recently decided to become a police officer.

“There’s so much negative stuff kids are inundated with,” Fuller said.

“It’s negative, negative, negative, negative. So I think what she’s doing is amazing.”

In a blog post on her website, Savannah wrote indirectly about young people’s frustration with police.

“I will keep being an influence on my generation so they can know the truth,” she wrote. “I will not be silent in a world that wants me to be quiet. I have never been one to fit in what everyone else is doing. I stand for truth.”

Debbie said, through their travels, the Solis family has heard so many heart-wrenching stories from officers, including those who found their cars set on fire and have had rocks or gasoline thrown at them.

She said they met with an officer who was so excited to see Savannah, and a week later he died on duty in a motorcycle accident.

“They see so much and they constantly have this weight on their shoulders and they bring it home to their families,” Savannah said moments after giving her speech.

After the presentation, Savannah took a group photo with officers and Woodward holding up a flag with a blue line that said, “They matter to me.”

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