Fourth District police officers honored by Cleveland church - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Fourth District police officers honored by Cleveland church

Cleveland police honored during special church service (Source: WOIO) Cleveland police honored during special church service (Source: WOIO)

Five Cleveland police officers were presented with awards Sunday by members of a church that's located in the area in which they serve.

Cleveland Police Officer Marcus Cloud, Officer Jamusca Britton, Officer Kevin Walker, Officer Willie Hodges and Officer Carl Perkins were presented with awards during a breakfast and worship service at Blessed Hope Missionary Baptist Church.

Church leaders say they chose these five officers for the bravery they showed while handling the Alianna DeFreeze case, and for helping to bring the 14-year-old's murderer to justice.

Alianna's body was found in an abandoned Cleveland home in January of 2017.

She had been brutally raped and murdered on her way to school. Alianna's father says 44-year-old Christopher Whitaker befriended his daughter on the RTA bus as she rode to school.

At the Blessed Hope Ministry church, Damon DeFreeze and his wife, Watonya, got another chance to say thank you to the officers who helped in the investigation of the case.

"It's been very hard for them. We just want them to know that we love them, and we thank them for being there for us," said DeFreeze.

Cleveland Police Officer Jamusca Britton still struggles with what she saw the day that Alianna's body was found.

"As a mom I take it a day at a time. There's no turning back. It's only moving forward," said Britton.

Officer Britton is now working to make safer transportation available for Cleveland School Students so that what happened to Alianna doesn't happen to another child.

This was also designed to be a day when officers are honored with a breakfast for Cleveland Police Memorial Week.

Church members say their hope and prayer is that other churches will do the same thing which they believe would strengthen ties between police and the community.

"I think if we know each other that makes us better. If I know him and he knows me that will solve a lot of our problems," said Pastor Johnny Twymon.

For the police officers themselves being recognized means a lot.

Officer Willie Hodges was also an investigator on the Alianna DeFreeze case.

"It is a hard job that we do, and a lot of people don't understand what we go through when we do this job," said Hodges.

Church leaders say more events like this one are already being planned to keep increasing that understanding.

Alianna DeFreeze's dad says he and his wife are right now trying to figure out a way to provide safe rides to school for children through the Alianna DeFreeze Let's Make a Change Foundation.

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