Local police: ‘We are there for our citizens’
While a Dallas, Texas, police chief agonized over the death of five of his officers in a sniper attack this week, local police chiefs acknowledged that such shootings could occur anywhere, but said their officers will continue to do their jobs in the same way they do every day.
Part of that job is protecting their citizens from just the kind of thing that took place Thursday night in Dallas when a sniper or perhaps snipers opened fire on police officers at a protest rally over police shootings of alleged suspects in other parts of the country.
The shots, which also wounded seven other officers, sent the large crowd of protesters running for their lives as they tried to escape the bullets raining down from what news reports called the sniper’s elevated position.
“We are here to reassure the citizens of Chambersburg, we will still be doing our job every day,” said Chambersburg Police Chief Ron Camacho, who as of Friday had just been on the job as CPD’s chief for three days.
He said he hasn’t had a chance to reach out to the larger Chambersburg community yet, but he plans to get out into the community to give talks to groups such as churches, schools, civic clubs and anyone who wants to know more about the department and the sometimes difficult jobs police officers must do, and let the public know how they can help in the event of an active shooter incident.
“I’m a big proponent of soliciting help from the community in order to combat things like what happened in Dallas,” he said.
He said there are always people who don’t understand the nature of the job police officers do day in and day out.
“I think unless you’ve been a police officer, you probably don’t understand the pressures of the job,” he said.
He said it is his job, as the community’s new police chief, to educate the public, something he takes seriously.
Waynesboro Police Chief James Sourbier believes local police officers across Franklin County are closer to their communities than those serving in large departments in big cities such as Dallas.
That, he said, gives the public a better feeling about the officers who police their communities.
“We are policing 11,000 people (in Waynesboro), and we see them regularly, interact with them routinely so they get to know us,”he said. “They are our neighbors, but in a city with a million people there just isn’t that closeness.”
Still, he said that in even in a small community, the potential for senseless violence can’t be ruled out.
“The simple fact is you can not ignore the possibility or potential (an event like the Dallas shootings) could occur anywhere, at any time,” he said. “We aren’t immune, and we can’t be complacent.”
A gunman, now identified as Micah Johnson, a 25-year-old Army veteran, opened fire late Thursday on police as they marshaled demonstrators peacefully protesting recent police-involved shootings of African-American men in Louisiana and Minnesota. The ambush on police left five officers dead while seven other police officers and two civilians were also injured in the attack.
The gunman was killed by police using a robot-controlled explosive device.
Preventing similar attacks
Both Sourbier and Camacho stressed the importance of local departments efforts to get to know their communities and the people that live in them.
The Chambersburg Police Department has always participated in events designed to educate its citizenry about the job it does in the community.
Police officers participate in a number of public relations events, including the annual National Night Out, an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, better places to live.
One Saturday in June, Officer Smith handed out “Safe Child” identification kits at the North Square Farmers Market in downtown Chambersburg, mingling with and talking to the crowd at the market.
The project was organized and carried out by Smith.
Other efforts by local police include a “Coffee with a Cop” event at a downtown cafe in which local residents are invited to drop by and talk about community issues, concerns and just get to know their local police officers. The next such event is scheduled next month.
Sourbier said he felt all of the area’s police departments have good relationships with their communities, but he acknowledges that there are always people who want to harm others, including those who carry grudges against police for one reason or another.
“We can never simply live complacently,” he said.
He stressed, however, that the knowledge there are people in the world who might want to harm them would not keep local police officers from doing the job they swore to do when they decided to go into law enforcement: Protecting the community they have sworn to serve.
Public Opinion were unable to reach police chiefs in several other county police departments for comment Friday afternoon.
USA TODAY contributed to this story.