WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Sheriff’s patrol officers can be out, alone, with backup far away. Sheriff Jeff Easter says with recent police shootings he’s talked to his staff about staying safe.
“After the Dallas incident, we went to some of the squads and talked to the deputies about it,” says Easter. “It doesn’t change the way we necessarily do business because we can’t be hyper vigilant to these items as well. We can’t treat everybody like they are out to hurt us.”
But, Easter says, they will double up on some patrols as they respond to the public.
“We’ve looked at some beats to double up,” explains Easter. “For that reason and we’re trying some of those things to ensure that the deputies, some of our higher call load beats, that they feel safe.”
Kansas Highway Patrol officers say they can be isolated, as an officer. But, while recent officer shootings is not changing the way they do things, some officers say it’s always on their mind.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time be working by ourselves, without a partner or without backup. Especially if we’re assigned to rural counties,” says Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Chad Crittenden. “I mean you might be the only law enforcement for several, three or four counties at a time. So we always knew that if there is a situation or we went hands on, we are it. We had to take care of business by ourselves, It could be 30-45 minutes for backup to happen. So if there was a scuffle that only took two or three minutes you have to understand help is coming for you but you have to resolve the situation more than likely by yourself.”
Crittenden says their training is such, that officers will know how to diffuse potentially dangerous situations before they happen.
Easter says same with his staff.
“But we have to remember that 90 percent of the population here in Sedgwick County that we serve, enjoy the protections that we provide them. Ninety percent of the people support what we do. Ten percent do not,” explains Easter. “And so what we have to do is make sure that our deputies are well-trained, provide them with the opportunities and provide them with the proper equipment to properly defend themselves. Because my number one goal for the deputies is they go home at night. And we preach that but we also preach the fact that we can’t treat everybody that they are a suspect in something. And, so, there’s a happy medium there that has come to the forefront now with what has happened in Dallas and what’s happened in Baton Rouge.”
And with another fatal shooting, this time in Kansas City, Kansas where Captain Bob Melton was shot and killed in the line of duty Tuesday, officers say community outreach is more important than ever.
“The thing is we have to be part of the solution. I came from the WPD, I was part of community policing for years, (and) enjoyed great relationships with the community and that was all about breaking down those barriers,” says Easter. “Building trust, getting to know each other on a first name basis and they could call and our community policing efforts out in the county, we know a lot of the folks. And it’s about getting out of the car and talking to them. We have a common goal where we all want to be safe, and we can share opinions.”