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Rivera honors officers one signature at a time

A Harlan man known throughout the region for dedicating his vehicle to police officers is taking even bigger strides to recognize those in the line of duty. Angel Rivera, a volunteer firefighter, said his car will feature the signatures of multiple officers within the next two weeks.

Rivera has traveled throughout the region, from Chicago, all the way to Auburn, Alabama collecting signatures from officers in order to continue the project he began on his car. The black Ford Taurus will soon feature signatures from active, retired and fallen officers, with the names of active duty officers in gray and the names of fallen officers in blue.

Rivera said the project started in remembrance of his father, who was killed in the line of duty in Chicago in 1996. He also said KSP trooper Andy Soltess has “done a lot for him” and he thought of Soltess as a mentor. Rivera said now it has evolved to honor all police officers who risk their lives every day.

“A lot of it had to do with my dad and the friends I have here,” Rivera said. “But why dedicate it to one person instead of every single cop out there?”

Rivera noted the change of attitude toward those in the line of duty, saying “firefighters are getting more recognition than them now.”

“They don’t get the appreciation like they used to get in the old days,” Rivera said. “Everybody wants to say how they’re the bad guys when they’re not. They put their lives on the line every day and people don’t even notice.”

Rivera also spoke of the research he’s conducted on police officers, mentioning that in the 1970s, officers were often called “flatfoots” because the sole of the shoes they wore were flattened to rest against the ground.

“Now people are calling them pigs,” Rivera said.

Rivera noted that two officers he had gotten signatures from recently died in the line of duty in Chicago.

“I told their families that their names would be put on the car,” Rivera said. “Once the car is done, I’m going back to everyone I’ve gotten signatures from so them and their families can see it.”

Rivera was invited to Washington, D.C. to take pictures with the vehicle in front of the White House, as well as the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. The memorial lists the names of more than 20,000 federal, state and local law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty dating back to 1791, as stated on the memorial website.

“Being invited to Washington, D.C. is a big thing,” Rivera said.

Rivera also said the car will be used to transport Chad Howard, survivor of a horrific fire that occurred in late April, back to his hometown of Harlan. Rivera said Howard’s son, Ozzy, will be able to drive the car.

“I told Ozzy that he will be driving the car back to Harlan, with his dad sitting in either the front or the back seat. It will happen,” Rivera said.

Rivera said the car has meant a lot to him, as well as the officers for which it was dedicated.