Monday, August 8, 2016

Reflections on the Dallas Police Shootings

by Lt. Alejandro Coss, Dallas Police Department

I have served with the Dallas Police Department for 17 years, and I have never been so proud of the men and women who serve alongside me as I was on the night of 07-07-16.

“Why would you want to work for Dallas?” I have often heard. There are so many things wrong with that city and that department. Simple answer, I know that I am surrounded by over 3,000 men and women that in an instant will be there for me. Someone got on the radio that night and called for a “city-wide assist officer.” It brought the biggest storm of “blue” that our history has ever known. It rained police officers for hours and bathed the downtown area with reds and blues.

When officers started arriving they encountered officers from other divisions. Officers they really didn’t know all that well or had worked with previously. No matter! They formed small groups and marched into what must have seemed like hell on earth.

No one had to stop and tell them what they were putting at stake by going. . .They just put on a brave face and went. They saw their brothers on the ground and went forward unto the breach.

How do you even train for that? Simple answer is you don’t. You’re born with it, you hear the calling and you make the conscious choice to answer it.

“What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god!” (--William Shakespeare)

Rookies still on field training and senior officers alike held their ground shoulder to shoulder watching each other’s back.

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” (--Nelson Mandela)

Even after shots began, the disapproving taunting and public criticism continued. Yet they never wavered. Their obligation to the preservation of life stood true.

They stood between the danger and the citizens and held the line… They swallowed their grief and HELD THE LINE!!! They knew the fallen officers, they had shared experiences with them, heard stories about their kids. Angry, scared, shocked and in disbelief, they pressed on through the night. No one complained, it was now about protecting the ones still alive.

Officers are often accused (by our critics) of being heartless. It’s true we have to do things most people couldn’t and, to do those things, sometimes we have to separate ourselves from our emotions for the time being. However, we are not heartless. We are very emotional beings. We got into this line of work for the very fact that we care. “If you prick us, do we not bleed?”(--William Shakespeare)

When I returned to my division from downtown, we had gotten reports that one of the other divisions had been attacked, or at least shot at, and that we should be on alert. We were still in the fight…

We commenced a call back of all personnel, and one by one they showed up. Some of them on their day off, most of them had already worked earlier that day and had just laid their head to rest for the night. But not one single complaint. Dressed in their uniform, only slightly disheveled and ready to work, they arrived. “Where do you need me Lt.?” As the hours stacked up and the night turned into the early morning, the heavy emotions of what had happened began to take a toll. I gathered the remaining members of 3rd watch, who would normally have been dismissed hours ago, and invited them to go home and rest. Most of them refused. We compromised, and they agreed to rest in our break room. I think they just wanted to be close to each other and pray silently for their friends.

The morning came, and the day watch commander arrived. He asked me how long I had been on, and it took me a moment to answer him. It had been 12 hours since the attack began. and we had all been going full speed the whole night. I was exhausted and hadn’t even realized it. I was ordered to go home, and I chose not to argue.

*Some others I would like to mention…

The honor guard performed their duty in 100-degree heat, while in full formal dress. They sweated buckets for hours, for days, all week. They never left the side of the officer they were entrusted to guard. I wanted to say something about the nurses. We truly love them. There are so full of love and compassion. They don’t even know us but they work so hard to try and save us.

On the route from the funerals to the burials, the roads were lined with people that had come out to show support, many of them with flags or signs, waiving and shouting thank-you’s.

I noticed a lot of them were wearing their work clothes/uniforms. They didn’t have the day off, they were at their jobs and when they noticed the procession passing by their place of business, they felt compelled to walk out and show respect for an individual who had given his life to protect society.

Regardless of the criticism we receive, our pride in our duty and the respect that we have for each other and our profession knows no end. I once made a presentation to a criminal justice class at a nearby college. A student asked me if I found it hard to recruit police applicants with all the bad press these days. I told him, we the few, the chosen few, do this job, not for popularity, or fortune, or fame. We do it because it is the responsibility of the strong to protect the weak and no amount of bad press is ever going to change that.

Final note…

My friend was assigned to the protest. He left the station with a 7-man response them. Almost every member of his team was killed or wounded. It wasn’t his fault. IT WASN”T HIS FAULT!!! But how can I convince him not to have those feelings. Anyone in his position would. I would. He had worked harder than anyone I know to arrange specialized training for his team. I should know, I proof read his memos for him. He figured out new ways to get equipment for his guys that the city doesn’t provide. He’s a saint among men, and still it will take him a very long time to forgive himself. Never-the-less, when he got back to the station from the hospital, he actually went around thanking everybody for their efforts. It is my honor and privilege to know men and women like him.