MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It’s an emotional day at Miami-Dade Police Headquarters and at police stations across South Florida in the wake of the Dallas sniper shooting that left five police officers killed and seven others hurt.
“I can’t even image what the chief is going through, what the agency is going through,” said Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez.
The outpouring of support and solidarity is stronger than ever at police departments across the U.S. and South Florida as Miami-Dade’s top cop reacts to the violence.
“For us that do this work, for me personally, for my family to see this occur. It’s been a horrific night for law enforcement.” Perez continued, “These officers were simply protecting people that were protesting law enforcement. And, doing their jobs they don’t care who they have to protect, who they have to serve.”
Officers from the City of Miami Police Department held a moment of silence Friday to remember the fallen Dallas officers and the others left injured. The department also tweeted out a picture showing their solidarity with the Dallas Police Department.
— Miami PD (@MiamiPD) July 8, 2016
Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes released a statement directed to his officers on the street.
“Today as we reflect on the events around the country and Dallas in particular, let us not forget what our families fear on a daily basis. What sets you aside from the rest of society is that today you came to work and continue to serve your community selflessly. This calling is what makes you and every other law enforcement officer special. Hug your family members a little tighter and remember our brothers and sisters in your prayers. The overwhelming majority of your community supports you. We are responsible to and for each other; back each other up and support each other through these tough times, tactically and emotionally. Stay safe as you protect our community.”
Llanes commended the selfless officers who ran to help the protesters.
“When those shots first rang out they didn’t know they were the target. They rushed to the gunfire to save the people that were on the street and that got them killed,” he said.
The chief also gave a heartfelt speech while swearing in a new class of recruits.
He reminded them that the majority of the public and police have mutual respect, but there are a few bad apples on both sides that are diving the current narrative.
“Every day you will go out and you will change the story. Every contact you have with a person strive to make it a positive one. Because that is the only way us, the majority can change this narrative,” he said.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel called the sniper attack “a cowardly ambush by a gang of criminals.”
“The attack last night in Dallas was so shocking because it was nothing less than a deadly frontal attack on the institution of law enforcement itself,” Israel added.
Here is his post from Facebook.
Sweetwater Police Chief Placido Diaz echoes Director Perez and all law enforcement officers who were unable to sleep after learning about the shootings.
“It’s painful to see a fellow officer fall in the line of duty like that by a savage, an assassin, a narcissistic individual who was out to just hurt cops. It’s just a sad time nationwide for all of us and my heart and prayers go out to those officers’ and their families and the entire Dallas community. It’s shocking. I’m just shocked,” said Chief Diaz. As for his officers in Sweetwater, they are concerned about what is going on nationwide. “I am of the opinion that all lives matter and police officers matter because they are out there to protect the public and to protect all of us. It’s sad to see the picture that some are painting of police officers. I’m not saying that all are good, you have a few bad apples as in any profession but the majority of officers are out there to do the right thing and by putting this stigma over them you jeopardize your own safety because if an officer hesitates to act he can either get hurt himself or he can stop from saving your life at some point.”
Miami-Dade’s police union chief says he’s warned for some time now the streets everywhere, including here in South Florida are increasingly dangerous.
“When we see it on TV and it hits home and people start to realize. And then they start asking questions, ‘how did this happen?’ Well, we knew. We knew a long time ago that stuff like this was gonna happen. It just fell on deaf ears,” said John Rivera from the Police Benevolent Association.
Despite the danger, a police officer’s job is to serve and protect the public.
“This is a tragic event that should have never happened. But it does not deter us from what we need to continue to do,” stressed Miami-Dade Police Director Perez.
Hallandale Beach police officer Raul Rivera clearly understands the dangers.
“We’re definitely more aware of our surrounding right now from everything that is happening,” he said, “but we still do our job the same way.”
Given the current climate in the country, the Hallandale Beach Police Department is taking added precautions.
“We’ve made some operations changes, tactics in having officers respond to certain calls together, not allowing officer to respond solo to particular calls,” said Hallandale Beach Police Chief Dwayne Flournoy.
All the law enforcement agencies across South Florida are making changes to their tactics.
“We slept very little last night but we’ve had conversations already. There will be action on our part,” MDPD Director Perez said. “We will do things a little different to protect those officers on the front lines standing with those demonstrators because it’s for their benefit – the demonstrators and our own lives.”
BSO promises changes too, but no one is talking specifics – not wanting to tip off those who have bad intentions.
Sheriff Israel stressed communication is the key here.
“Division and violence are not the answers and I will not allow them to happen. I will not allow a divide in this community,” he said.
Agencies are also working on a plan for officers around South Florida to improve the way they share information with each other through social media.
Chief Flournoy is calling for a change in tone on all sides.
“It’s often said, ‘words don’t hurt.’ That’s a lie. Words encourage people to do certain things. We must be careful as leaders, activists, what we say so we don’t begin to encourage or radicalize certain behavior,” he said.