Brent J. Meyer
PORAC Vice President
I was in the gym on the evening of July 7, when I found myself in an ironic moment. Both the cable news cameraman and I were running — he was struggling against a crowd of people stampeding over his position, and I was dashing ahead to an invisible endpoint five miles down the treadmill. Though our perspective was similar, our reasons were much different.
As his camera steadied, I began to see small ribbons of police, guns drawn, running in different directions through the streets of Texas’ third-largest city, Dallas. Pulling out an earbud, I heard the sharp report of gunfire amid the screaming and yelling coming from the television. I saw scared and confused citizens trying to get away, cops ordering people to disperse and the ignorant defiantly recording it with their mobile devices for their three minutes of celebrity on social media. Clearly, something was going on. When I finally noticed the scrolling headline, “Citizens protest police shootings,” chaos had already broken loose.
Up until then, I hadn’t really been paying much attention, since tension between the police and citizens in our country had been running high as of late, with that week being no exception. I was aware of the recent shootings in Minnesota and Louisiana, so, that night, a crowd of people “demonstrating” was nothing significant to me. It would have ordinarily faded into the background noise of the evening’s newscast, but what I came to realize was that what I was watching was much different. It was live television, not an endless string of man-on-the-street interviews. The situation was developing quickly, disorderly and unpredictable. I took notice. And as the news commentator’s voice got more serious and desperate, I ran faster.
What drew me in to this craziness was actually seeing what so many describe, but have never experienced. I watched cops running toward the sounds of gunshots, while everyone else was running away. Politicians, the media, well-meaning citizens — everyone loves to say it, but very few outside of our profession have actually seen it or lived it. It is the epitome of what we do, and on this night, it was dramatically unfolding on live television.
My 60-minute run lasted over 90 minutes that night, but it may as well have only been five minutes for as much as I remember of it. I was fixated on an event that I think changed our profession, and undoubtedly changed me, forever. Of all the images that I flash back to in my mind, seeing the lifeless uniformed body of one of the five Dallas police officers who were murdered that night laying unattended next to a patrol car is the most disturbing. The cameraman panned the landscape and then zoomed in, focusing on the white letters spelling “POLICE” across the officer’s back. Abruptly, though, he pulled back, likely realizing what he had just inadvertently broadcast to our nation. In those few seconds, my heart broke as I came to the realization that the officers there in Dallas were already painfully aware of. But they still had a problem to address, and were taking cover, responding to the threat, unable to help him. Ultimately, they did what they had to do and saved lives. In the days to follow, the media called it amazing. Chiefs called it heroic. Cops … we’ll always just call it training and survival.
Over a year ago, right here, I called out what I believed to be the dawn of the war against law enforcement. It was figurative, of course, as all the battles in this war have been up until this point, centered on rights, pay and benefits. We’ve taken those fights head-on, making short work of issues like SB 1286, which would have ended protections for your personnel file and stripped away your personal privacy rights. We’ve also worked hard to lessen the blow of anti-law-enforcement bills like AB 953 and help lead the discussion on transparency in the context of improved community policing, getting access to the best equipment and mandating quality training. We understand that policing does not make millionaires out of working (or retired) cops, who show up and try to do a dirty job as cleanly as you can.
As we know today, however, our jobs are even more dangerous than ever. While the YouTube videos of you playing basketball with the neighborhood kids in uniform or taking the Running Man Challenge build bridges and help our communities understand that we are human, the events that played out in Dallas and Baton Rouge grossly illustrate the realities of what being in law enforcement means. Police officers, sheriff’s deputies and all PORAC members alike are the first line of domestic defense in our nation.
Every cop in Dallas that night knows now what we are just beginning to comprehend. God bless every one of them for preventing the loss of civilian life at the cost of five of their own. And God bless their families, as well as those in Baton Rouge, for the sacrifice that they have made, which should never be forgotten.
Thank you for your membership, take care and stay safe!