The assassinations of five officers in Dallas in July followed by the ambush in Baton Rouge could have happened anywhere in the country, including Houston, Texas.
We are always on high alert during those robbery in progress calls, felony vehicle stops or shootings in progress, but now officers must be vigilant the entire time they are wearing that blue uniform.
I applaud Chief Montalvo for immediately reminding all captains that the policy of allowing two-person units implemented by Chief McClelland is continuing under her watch. I also praise all patrol captains for allowing those wanting to pair up to do so and for requiring some to pair up.
The HPOU has been pushing for two-person units for many years. I truly hope we do not let our guards down and stop pairing up. The safety aspect goes beyond simply having at least two persons arriving on calls at the same time. Our police “shops” are designed for two officers. The passenger is able to operate the computer, radio, read dispatch supplements, etc., and allows the driver to focus on driving safely to the location. This may also reduce the number of police car accidents.
I have heard some shift commanders state that they just don’t have enough officers to allow pair-ups each day. It’s not the fault of those commanders that the department is 800-1,500 officers understaffed and that safety takes a back seat.
Some in the media have asked if this will increase response time. Clearly it will for the low priority calls, but I see very little, if any, increase on priority 1 calls.
Better Vests and More Power
HPOU 2nd Vice President Joe Gamaldi began researching the purchase of vests that could stop a high- powered rifle round. After conversing with Chief Montalvo, some assistant chiefs and the Police Foundation, Joe began working with a local attorney to seek donors to assist with the purchase of the vests. We are hoping purchases will begin soon. Until then, there should be a few of the vests from past purchases at each of the stations.
HPOU Treasurer Tim Butler has a federal firearms license and sells carbines out of the Union office at cost to our officers. He has seen a dramatic increase in sales and requests since the Dallas police murders. Any officer interested in purchasing a carbine may contact Tim at the number listed in the calendar.
We also have visited with members of the command staff in an attempt to get more carbine classes scheduled. We are advised that several in the command staff are looking at all aspects of carbine use and training.
While it may be wishful thinking, adding a week to the cadet training and having all cadets trained in the use of the carbine upon graduation would be a step in the right direction.
I have no desire to overwork our SWAT and narcotics folks who teach these classes, but also want to make sure that our officers have the tools they need to stay safe on our streets.
Police and Community Reactions
During that trying month of July the media covered comments and interviews from two police leaders in the country that made myself and many officers everywhere very proud.
Kudos go out to both Dallas Police Chief David Brown and Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke. These two individuals held back nothing in their praise of officers in the United States and explaining the difficult and often deadly job our officers face each time they don that uniform.
Chief Montalvo has been checking by on calls with officers and attending roll calls praising the work from Houston’s finest. Several assistant chiefs also have attended roll calls to thank the troops for keeping this city safe and reminding them to be on alert at all times.
Citizens across our city and the country have vocally supported our officers. We have heard many stories from officers about the positive interactions they have had with citizens since the tragedies. The increase in blue ribbons on trees and blue tape on vehicles is refreshing. The increase in smiles, handshakes and waves from the silent majority has been reported by patrol officers.
The patrons of one restaurant recently gave officers a standing ovation as they left dinner. Our mayor lit up City Hall in blue for several nights following the recent tragedies and has fully backed our officers recently been involved in significant events in our city.
All of these gestures may seem insignificant, but they truly raise the morale of our officers who sometimes feel policing is a thankless job.
Stay safe and vigilant at all times!