Jodi Johnston sparks an outbreak of gratitude for St. Louis Park police

More than 700 of the signs now dot the lawns of St. Louis Park.

More than 700 of the signs now dot the lawns of St. Louis Park.

Jodi Johnston peered at her husband Brian Benifield's cell phone. It was late July, the couple chilling in their backyard in St. Louis Park.

The online video was 2015 footage from Baltimore. City residents formed a wall of protection for police in a confrontation with protesters in the aftermath of Freddie Gray's death. 

"It gave me chills up my spine to see these people protecting police, forming a human shield, instead of being antagonistic," Johnston says. "It made me think about in the 20-plus years we've lived in St. Louis Park how the police have been so community-oriented in their response to our needs. I wanted to figure out a way to say thank you to our crew. I had to act that night."

Johnston decided that gratitude would be shown with yard signs.  

After coming up with the design, Johnston placed an order for 150. She sold them out of the garage for $5 apiece. They were gone in three days. Four dollars and change covered the cost. The rest would be donated to the department.

Johnston ordered 125 more. Gone like the others.

Today, there are more than 700 St. Louis Park homes with the yard signs.  

"I call them my super-sized thank you cards on a stick," Johnston says. "I'm still at a loss for words. I just wanted to tell them thanks, you're appreciated. But this thing has exploded."

And spread.

Bloomington resident Stu Walker phoned her, asking how he could do the same. Five hundred signs customized for Bloomington cops weren't enough. There's another 500 on order.

Johnston has also fielded calls from Golden Valley and Edina.

"It's gotten a contagious feel to it," she says with a proud laugh.

Johnston doesn't have to look far to see other communities where mistrust of police festers. While that reality bums her out, it doesn't bring her down. Her truth says yard signs have fostered palatable good energy and more frequent conversations between police and locals. 

As Johnston sees it, more chatter between parties is never a bad thing, regardless of zip code.

"When you go to a restaurant and the food was great and the drinks were cold there's a little place on the bill where you can show you appreciated it," she says. "I look at this the same way. We needed a way to show it to our police. I just happened to be the one who came up with the idea to do it."