By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
Law enforcement officers make a choice daily to put on their uniform and protect and serve the community, even in the midst of controversy or in the wake of the death of fellow officers, said Tucumcari Deputy Police Chief Pete Rivera.
“Officers have always had to have a thick skin, although these days it seems that skin needs to be a bit thicker,” Rivera said.
Rivera said following the death of five officers in Dallas, Texas, over the weekend the message being stressed to local officers is “be vigilant.”
“An officer is always told to be mindful of their surroundings while on duty,” Rivera said. “Yes, there is a heightened level of concern following the Dallas shooting, but that is not going to keep us from doing our job.”
The events that took place in Dallas are tragic and can be frightening too but it is not going to keep me from doing the job I’ve been doing for 20 years, said Quay County Sheriff Russell Shafer.
Shafer said he entered the law enforcement field in 1996, after serving in the military. He said it was and continues to be his career choice, even with all the events that have occurred.
“We have been fortunate that an event like the Dallas shooting has not occurred closer to home,” Shafer said. “I’ve always had the mind set of ‘not if, but when,’ and the shooting echoes that.”
Rivera said the shooting in Dallas strikes at the very heart of law enforcement across the nation. He said officers have been told counseling is available for them with the department’s chaplain should they need to talk.
Rivera said when officers put on their badge, they have sworn to enforce the law and protect the public. He said the public sees an officer, “but behind that badge is a son, daughter, mother, father, brother, sister, husband and wife. They have lives beyond that badge.”
“There is always the thought of ‘What if I don’t make it home?’ when an officer goes on duty,” Rivera said. “That is even more so now, considering the Dallas shooting appears to have been a deliberate attack on officers.”
Rivera said the officers injured and killed in the shooting were doing their job. He said police also were present during peaceful protests against officer-involved shooting deaths of two men in Minnesota and Louisiana.
Shafer said he and the deputies are conducting business as usual and even conducted three traffic stops on Monday.
He said there is the thoughts of the current events in the back of their minds but thoughts of the worse case scenario is nothing new to law enforcement.
Rivera said that while recent events may weigh on the minds and hearts of officers, they are still reporting to duty ready to serve. He said the Tucumcari department wants residents to know the shooting will not affect how its officers respond to calls or enforce state and local laws.
“We are not going to treat every traffic stop like it’s a felony stop or respond to each call with guns drawn,” Rivera said. “We are not going to be paranoid, the job is still the same: protect and serve.”
Rivera said it’s important the officers not allow these types of actions or events to effect how they interact with the public.
“It is not right to judge and treat the public differently because of the actions of a few,” Rivera said.
However, Rivera said officers often find themselves blanketed by the public and media for the actions of a few. He said this can also weigh on the officers, but they know it’s part of the job.