When The Dallas Morning News asked me to write a column on how Dallas police officers are impacted by the negative national media narrative of our profession, I immediately thought of the son of a well-respected Dallas police sergeant. Recently, as the officer was leaving for work, his 12-year old son told him “Dad, please be careful today.”
For the sergeant, who has devoted 19 years protecting the citizens of Dallas, this was a kick to the gut. He never dreamed that one day his son would fear for his dad’s safety. Unfortunately, for many police officers this is the new normal.
Across the country, our brothers and sisters face a barrage of unwarranted criticism, negative news stories and social media vitriol. Radical protesters and cop blockers regularly harass law enforcement. A deranged gunman recently shot up the Jack Evans Police Headquarters intent on killing as many officers as possible. And today, a Dallas police officer is fighting for his life after an irate driver allegedly targeted and drove over him.
The climate of recent months has taken a toll on our officers and their families, and it manifests in the small moments. We have spouses who drive home a different way every day because of the fear his or her family is being targeted. There are veteran police officers encouraging their children to break a family legacy of police service.
The Dallas Police Association is experiencing an increase of calls from family members frightened for their loved ones, and this is adding to the burden of an already stressful profession. Our associations’ Assist The Officer counseling program has doubled its efforts in recent weeks to help Dallas Police Department families who are dealing with the recent deaths of officers nationwide.
In other professions, it might be easy to dwell on the negativity or stop sacrificing for the job. But our officers did not choose to serve the citizens of Dallas because it is an easy job. We chose to serve because it is a calling.
Despite the misguided, media-driven agenda of manufactured outrage over the events of Ferguson and New York City, and the actions of professional protesters and social media bullies who thrived in the aftermath, our officers know we are supported by an overwhelming majority of the citizens we serve and protect.
We acknowledge the friendly wave of seniors as we patrol their neighborhoods. We look forward to our strategy meetings with neighborhood crime watch leaders. And, we thrive on the occasional pickup basketball games we play with local school kids. This kind of face-to-face interaction is what police work is all about.
No matter what is happening nationally or in any specific area around the country, we want the people of Dallas to know that we do not yield in our pursuit to be the best police force in America. We are more than police officers — we are husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters — each of us serving our community not just because it’s our job, but also because it’s an honor and responsibility that we take seriously.
Our goal is to have the best police department in America. To achieve that, rank-and-file officers took it upon themselves to offer comprehensive policing reforms, including changes that strengthen ethics within the department, increase transparency and help improve the safety of every neighborhood in every part of Dallas.
We did so not in response to any possible negative opinion of officers, but rather because these positive and proactive reforms help keep citizens safe. Simply put, it was the right thing to do for a profession we dearly love.
Speaking on behalf of every man and woman who proudly wears the badge of the Dallas Police Department, we thank you for the honor of serving you and your family.
Ron Pinkston is president of the Dallas Police Association.
On Twitter: @badge5591.