In a training room inside the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Office on Friday, deputies sat with eyes fixed on a big screen. So did commanders and other staff.
What they saw on the screen immediately put them in Dallas, mourning the lives of five fallen police officers.
“This was a time for them to come in, watch the vigil and maybe hold the hand of the person next to them and offer a prayer,” said Lt. Kelli Bailiff. “With the screen so large, it made you feel like you were in a theater, right there with them. … It was very touching to watch that and feel a part of that.”
Law enforcement across the Kansas City area stopped Friday and thought of what unfolded in Dallas the night before. Twelve officers shot, five of them killed.
The mass shooting, targeting law enforcement, came after two police shootings — one in Louisiana and one in Minnesota — of two black men by officers. The officers shot in Dallas were working a march of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The shooting hit area officers hard as they went to work Friday, especially as word spread that an officer from a St. Louis suburb was shot and critically injured. Authorities say that officer was ambushed during a routine traffic stop Friday morning.
“It reminds them of their own mortality,” said Sgt. Chris Depue of the Lee’s Summit Police Department, “and that they signed up to do a dangerous job. But in the end, they are proud to do their job and uphold their oath.”
The Kansas City police chief released a statement about the Dallas shootings, calling them horrific.
“We know those officers were killed running toward gunshots,” Darryl Forté wrote. “That is what police do, and I know our officers would do the same because they have.”
While some departments, like Lee’s Summit’s, were “business as usual, just being vigilant,” others took additional steps Friday in an effort to enhance the safety of officers and the community.
The St. Louis police chief took to Twitter hours after the Dallas shootings and said that until further notice, all officers would work in pairs. Members of the force also would be required to wear bullet-resistant vests.
“Although locally we are not experiencing any civil unrest,” Sam Dotson wrote on his Twitter page, “this decision is precautionary and is to maximize the safety of officers and our community.”
The chief of the St. Louis County Police Department, which is investigating the shooting of the Ballwin officer, said his officers will work 12-hour days over the weekend to provide more coverage.
“Right now, it’s a very difficult time for law enforcement,” Jon Belmar said during a briefing Friday afternoon on the Ballwin shooting. “We need somebody out there to meet us halfway, because it is very difficult for police officers to do their jobs now.”
“That has a huge impact on an organization where the men and women come to work every day and put their life on the line,” he said.
He said that people need to remember that police officers are a part of the communities they serve.
“I’m a father. I’m a son. I’m a husband,” he said. “We live in the community.”
Zeigler said that in Kansas City, Kan., the department works hard to meet regularly with community members and groups to keep open lines of communication.
He personally holds monthly meetings with community leaders, and the department’s community policing officers routinely attend community forums and meetings.
The department has also instituted training for officers on how to de-escalate tense situations before they devolve into violence.
“We want officers to learn better communication skills,” he said. “Words are important.”
Zeigler said that police have no problem with peaceful protests. But in the future, because of what happened in Dallas, he said police will likely take additional security measures, although they don’t want to disclose them publicly.
Bailiff said watching Friday’s vigil for the Dallas shooting and seeing the support for those officers was a way those here could come together.
“I think there was a sense of peace,” she said. “It gave some sort of hope that there’s a resolution to this violence going on in our United States.”