More than anyone, Terry Zeigler understands the impact the killing of a police officer has on a department and a community.
The Kansas City, Kan., police chief, whose department suffered the loss of one of its members in May, spoke Friday in about the aftermath of the Thursday night slaughter of police officers in Dallas.
“That has a huge impact on an organization who the men and women come to work everyday and put their life on the line,” he said.
He said that he can’t speak about what other police departments are doing, but in Kansas City, Kan., officers are going to continue following their credo of “Safety first. Courtesy always.”
Every day, every officer knows that there is a risk that they won’t come home that night, 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.”
And while they have to do everything they can to keep themselves safe, they also know that protecting the citizens they serve could put them in harm’s way at any time.
“We all understand that at some point in our career we may have to sacrifice our life for our community,” Zeigler said.
That mission to serve can best be accomplished by working to maintain connections with their communities.
“Officers have to treat every citizen with dignity and respect,” he said.
Zeigler said that in Kansas City, Kan., the department works hard to meet regularly with community members and groups to keep open good 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 deescalate 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.
Ultimately the more understanding there is between police departments and citizens, communities will be safer.
“It’s the only way that good things happen,” he said.