Last June, 35-year-old James Boulware planted pipe bombs and then shot up DPD headquarters. He was later killed by a police sniper. During an interview with the Dallas Observer, Dallas Police Chief David Brown spoke about the threat of violence his officers feel on the job. In the wake of the fatal shootings of police officers in downtown Dallas, his words have greater impact.
Chief Brown: It's really amazing that we didn’t lose a cop that night. But the effects of it are real, today. We think that our safe haven is the workplace. You know, we come to work and we gear up to go out to the beat.
And that thought process is now out the window. The workplace is not a safe haven, and it was naive for us to think that it ever was.
It messes with your psyche that when you come to work you need to have your head on a swivel walking between your car and the building. It was a very impactful event for us. It was symbolic to have an attack on police headquarters. I think it reverberates throughout the department still today.
I heard from the Association of Union Presidents, "When we going to beef up security?" It’s on our minds that we’ve got to have a fence, getting control over access at all our facilities. I mean, cops are generally paranoid anyway. We’re hyper-vigilant. We hope for the best, but until we eliminate the worst, we think the worst is going to happen.
Go to a restaurant with us one time. Go eat lunch with us. We’re never going to sit with our back to the door, right? And if you’re in that seat you’re going to have to get up because we have to sit there, because you’re not going to do what I have to do if somebody comes in there and robs the place.
So when things happen like an attack on headquarters, it just supports the way we’re thinking. That may never happen again for another hundred years, but it happened so it could happen again and that’s just how we think.
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DO: Were you sort of disappointed when the city hired a consultant to look at hardening police facilities rather than putting some of that money toward improvements that would happen more quickly?
Chief Brown: No. I’ve been around a while, right? This will be my 33rd year, and I was over at City Hall four years as assistant city manager, so I knew the bureaucracy of procurement. Any type of large amount of cash outlay will take a process. ... I knew that, so almost immediately I came to the conclusion that we need to do something that would not depend on that process. So I immediately posted officers with rifles at every police facility. If you look at what happened at the police headquarters attack, what ended that siege was cops confronting him. Bullet-proof glass didn’t end that siege. Gates wouldn’t have ended it. A cop stepped out of their car and returned fire; that’s what got [the shooter] to leave the area. And we continue that today. So if you’re going to come to our facility and try to do us harm, you will be confronted.
DO: An Army medic once told me that the best first aid is fire superiority.
Chief Brown: That’s right. They don’t like it when the rabbit’s got the gun. Hunting’s a sport, but when the rabbit starts shooting back at you, that’s a real sport.