Despite the contentious debates embroiling the Dallas Police Department and the city, Wednesday afternoon's police memorial ceremony downtown wasn't about politics, pensions or retention. Instead, the services in front of the city's monument to officers killed in the line of duty focused on the 84 Dallas police officers killed since C.O. Brewer in 1892.
Interim Dallas Police Chief David Pughes spoke to the crowd, recalling July 7, 2016, the day Micah Johnson killed four Dallas officers — Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol and Patricio Zamarripa — and caused the biggest single-day loss of life in department history. The chief called it the worst day in DPD history.
“I know it doesn’t matter how long it’s been, but the pain is real; the pain feels like it was yesterday. We grieve with you, we share your pain,” Pughes told those gathered in the often-overwhelming heat. "We all wish [the attack] wouldn't have happened, and we all pray that nothing like it ever happens again."
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings attended the memorial even though the Dallas chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police asked him not to come in reaction to his role in the fight over the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System. He kept his remarks to a minimum, highlighting the city's overwhelming grief over the deaths of Ahrens, Smith, Krol and Zamarripa before reading a city proclamation marking Wednesday as Police Memorial Day.
Ron Pinkston, the combative former head of the Dallas Police Association, told the Observer after the ceremony that Wednesday, for him, wasn't about politics. "Today is about one thing," Pinkston said. "It's about remembering our fallen brothers. It's about remembering the 84 officers. That's why I'm here today."
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Last year's attack was the only time during Pinkston's five years as DPA president that a DPD officer was killed in the line of duty, making this year's memorial ceremony especially rough for him. "July 7 had a big effect on me. It hurt me, but the Dallas Police Department isn't going to stay down," he said. "These officers here, they are going to go out later and they're going to continue to serve."
Pinkston highlighted the ways in which the department's attrition rate, something he fought against as DPA president, is hurting the department. He says the drain of talent opens DPD facilities up to attacks like the one committed by James Boulware in 2015 and attempted attacks like this month's incident involving Adan Salazar, who rolled through a parking lot checkpoint at DPD's southwest patrol division with two 9 mm handguns.
"We have more officers out on the street covering shifts, so we need more security at the stations. Fire departments have fences around their stations," Pinkston said. "That's all officers are asking for — security when they walk out at the end of the night."