What more can be done to keep police safe?
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Texas was the deadliest state for law enforcement officers last year — something Dallas-area police were reminded of after a Richardson cop was gunned down this week.

Officers know their jobs are dangerous. Even before they graduate from the police academy, they adopt mottos reminding them of their purpose:  "Protect and serve, no matter the risk, Class 356."

But North Texas police have faced more extreme peril in recent years — a madman in a "zombie apocalypse" van taking aim at police headquarters, a gunman lying in wait at a suburban park, an Army veteran waging war on cops in downtown Dallas.

And after Richardson Officer David Sherrard was killed while responding to a domestic disturbance Wednesday night and Dallas officers narrowly avoided being shot on the highway the next morning, it's clear no call can be treated as routine and no place is secure.

So what can be done to make sure police get home safe each night?

The Dallas City Council's public safety committee will be briefed Monday on measures to bolster safety at police stations and improve fencing in police parking lots.

"We're going to keep something related to our police officer safety and our first responder safety on the top of our priority list," said council member Adam McGough, who leads the committee.

The group is expected to discuss how to use $6.7 million from the recent bond program to strengthen fences around police station parking lots and install secured gates.

McGough said he has been thinking of ways to keep police officers safer, especially after Sherrard was killed just hours before someone randomly shot into a patrol car driving on the highway. 

In Dallas, police associations have been critical of city leaders for being slow to make changes after tragedy. Security improvements to the Dallas Police Headquarters are about 60 percent finished and won't be completed until May — nearly three years after a gunman rained bullets on the building.

Officers questioned why they weren't wearing heavy vests during a protest that ended in bloodshed after a man dressed in tactical gear targeted and gunned down cops in July 2016, killing five and injuring many others.

The Dallas Police Department got $1.75 million in state funding for rifle-resistant vests in January.

McGough said he wants to regularly ask first responders, "What are other things we can be doing?" 

"I don't think there's ever a threshold where we've done enough," the council member said. 

Part of that is trying to predict the odd or unexpected. 

James Boulware rolled up to Dallas Police Headquarters in an armored van in June 2015 and fired a rifle into the building. 

James Boulware lost a custody battle with his mother over his 11-year-old son before he went on a shootout with Dallas police in June 2015.  (Dallas Police Department)
James Boulware lost a custody battle with his mother over his 11-year-old son before he went on a shootout with Dallas police in June 2015.  
(Dallas Police Department)

In April, a man wearing a Guy Fawkes mask went to the southwest Dallas police station "to show the world that it can be done" and to "get rid of things that bother me."

He threatened to shoot up the station, and officers found two loaded 9 mm handguns and three more magazines of ammunition in his car.

On Feb. 4, a man armed with a sledgehammer bashed 12 patrol cars at the Dallas Police Department's Central Division in Deep Ellum.

"There are people out there that are hurting law enforcement officers," First Assistant Dallas Police Chief David Pughes said after two officers were shot at early Thursday while driving in their squad car on Interstate 30. "Anytime a law enforcement officer is attacked, it really puts you on high precaution. We have to be vigilant at all times knowing what's going on."

But Pughes said it's tough to plan for something as unexpected as being shot at from a highway service road.

The officer in the passenger seat was injured by flying glass. One bullet struck the side passenger door, and a second went through the passenger side window and the windshield. Investigators found four 9 mm shell casings but no suspect.

Police know they can't roll around town in heavily armored vehicles or stop people from going to police stations.

"We still have to maintain an ability for the community to engage with us," said Dallas Police Association President Michael Mata. "There is no 100 percent way to prevent an officer from getting killed."

Still, Mata said, some things are basic, such as fencing around parking lots at police stations so people with sledgehammers can't wander in. It's something that should have been, and could have been, done before something bad happened, he said. 

McGough said it's up to city leaders to make sure they support the officers who often view their profession as a calling. 

"It is our duty to make sure we honor that calling and that level of service and do whatever we can to keep our first responders safe," he said.

Richardson police Officer David Sherrard was killed Feb. 7 in a shooting at an apartment complex.(Richardson Police Department)
Richardson police Officer David Sherrard was killed Feb. 7 in a shooting at an apartment complex.
(Richardson Police Department)

Last year, 14 Texas officers were killed in the line of duty. Sherrard, the Richardson officer, was the first on-duty officer killed in the state this year.

His friends and family described Sherrard as a great man dedicated to helping others. 

Childhood friend Aaron Meek, who resigned from the Dallas Sheriff's Office last month to run in the Republican race for sheriff, said: "We're heartbroken, but we know it's part of the job, any time we lose one of our brothers. We know that's what we have to do. The job doesn't stop."


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