DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A deadly weekend for law enforcement has departments in North Texas making staffing changes to keep officers safer.
In Fort Worth, two vehicle per call staffing became mandatory. In Dallas, officers were given the option—and encouraged—to patrol in pairs.
“It’s just safer,” says Sgt. Mike Mata, with the Dallas Police Association. “It’s more productive also knowing there is an officer there watching your back. Another set of eyes—when the lead officer is engaged.” Sgt. Mata, a 22 year veteran with the department, acknowledges that officers are on edge. “This is a very scary climate that we’re in right now.”
Officers know that—and so do those that love them.
“This is my daughter,” says Gloria J. Smith, proudly, “my baby.” Never mind that her “baby” wears a badge—and carries a gun. Her baby, Sr. Crpl. Christine Smith, knows that her blue uniform makes her a target. Thus her Mom calls on a higher power to manage these dangerous times.
“The old adage is ‘if going to pray, don’t worry about it, and if you’re going to worry about it… don’t pray’,” says Smith. It sounds good. But, this officer’s Mother admits to doing a lot of both.
“It just so blatant,” says Smith of the recent spike in police ambush shootings. “It’s on the news. It’s happening everywhere.”
And officers aren’t oblivious to the danger.
“I have to think about it, but at the same time I can’t let it overshadow what I’m called here to do,” adds Sr. Crpl. Smith.. “And I’m supposed to do my job. It’s in the back of my mind, but you put your safety first and you trust your training and I trust the Lord. Simple as that.”
In Garland, officers were given the option to patrol in pairs in July, following the ambush murders of five Dallas officers.
“It’s a reminder that there are bad people out there wanting to kill police officers,” says Lt. Pedro Barineau, Garland police spokesperson. “Any time an officer is killed in the line of duty, it’s a tragedy. And we all hurt.”
Officers grieve. But, they also still show up to do their jobs.
“So I pray, and I trust my training,” says Sr. Crpl. Smith. ‘No matter what. And I’m running toward it. Not running away.”
According to Sgt. Mata, all law enforcement suffers from the bad acts of a few.
“The San Antonio officer paid the price. The Missouri officer paid the price. The Florida officer paid the price,” says Sgt. Mata. “Our five fallen officers here in Dallas paid the ultimate price. They paid the price for sins that somebody in a completely other state did. So nobody wants to get rid of those bad guys, those bad officers who have sullied and have taken away the shine from our badge more than police officers. But, give us a chance, allow us to get those bad officers out of our profession.”