Law enforcement leaders urge officers to remain professional

Officers urged to remian calm, professional
Published: Jul. 8, 2016 at 9:54 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 8, 2016 at 10:35 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Some local law enforcement leaders praised the response of the Dallas Police Department during the deadly assault on its officers while reminding their own officers to remain professional, and to use their extensive training and protective equipment.

"I was heartsick, I was angry, I was saddened beyond belief, beyond words, to see officers lose their lives, become injured," said New Orleans Police Chief Michael Harrison.

"It's definitely disturbing. It's sad," said St. John Parish Sheriff Mike Tregre.

"Yesterday was a tragic day for law enforcement across this country," said Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand.

The killings of the Dallas officers happened while a peaceful demonstration was taking place over officer-involved shootings that left two black men dead - one in Baton Rouge and one in Minnesota.

Local authorities communicated with their departments overnight and Friday.

"We now have an added factor of domestic terrorists who would take it upon themselves to inflict harm not only on civilians, but now on police officers, so as we look to serve and protect and provide public safety, we now have to be not only worried about the people we're serving, but now be on the lookout for that lone soldier or that lone wolf who wants to take us out," Harrison said.

Late last month, Jefferson Parish Deputy David Michel Jr., was fatally wounded after making a pedestrian stop.

"Things have to change," Normand said. "We've got a job to do and there's a thin line between an ordered and structured society and anarchy, and we're the ones that stand in between and it's a difficult job. Trust is a bilateral thing, not unilateral."

In 2012, St. John Parish Sheriff Mike Tregre lost two deputies on the same day to gunfire. He communicates often with his deputies to make sure they are coping well with the demands of the job.

"I try to make sure their family lives are intact, that somebody is there for them. They've got to have an outlet to deal with everything you see that's going on, not just all over the country,  but the experience I had when my two officers were killed," Tregre said.

And both he and Chief Harrison had discussions within their departments in the wake of the Dallas incident to make sure protective vests are utilized.

"We've taken inventory of everybody's equipment and gear, making sure they have those vests on if we get a call for service. If we get a call for service, we want to verify that this is not some anonymous caller," said Tregre.

"For those who may choose to on their own not wear them, it's not an option. We want them to wear them now more than ever, people are using them as targets," said Harrison.

Normand, who is out of town, had discussion with top brass in his department right away.

"I was on the phone with my commanders through the night talking about some of the potential challenges, standing up our criminal intelligence center, monitoring the social networks and things of that nature, as well as communicating to the men and women of the JPSO that we're a professional organization, we know how to do this right," Normand said. "We engaged in techniques of deescalation long before it became a vogue term. We understand how to deliver good, clean law enforcement with empathy and sympathy and a high level of intellect, and we need to rely on our training and do what we do best, but that doesn't ensure that it's always done right. We're human."

Normand said too often society engages in a dialogue based on a video that is one perspective of an incident without allowing the facts to be fully vetted.

Harrison acknowledges there is anger in the public, but said his officers must do their jobs and protect and serve the community.

"People are angry, people are hurt, and people are confused and have questions," he said. "They want answers, and their anger is not channeled to any particular individual - certainly not Michael Harrison or any other individual, but what this uniform and this badge represents, and so [we] should not take that personal. We should show up today as we did yesterday and provide an excellent level of service and give people space and opportunities to demonstrate and protest without taking it personal because that's what we do, and that's who we are and we've done it well over years."

And Tregre said since the Dallas shootings, there's been public outreach to his department in light of what happened to some of the deputies here.

"Social media, you know, they're asking me, checking on me, checking on my officers, and I'm checking on citizens. I've got pastors calling me, texting me," Tregre said.

"There's no difference among the races around the country in what they desire," Normand said. "They all want a safe place to live work and raise their family."

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