Each month, the Advocate visits with Sgt. Michael Gurley, Sr. Cpl. Pam Maines and Sr. Cpl. Rick Janich of the East Dallas Storefront police station, 1327 N. Peak Street (670-5523). Three police officers and five community service workers are employed at the Storefront, which coordinates multilingual services ranging from tutoring to crime prevention. The Storefront is best-known for its bicycle patrol officers, who pedal neighborhood streets. The City funds the Storefronts, but numerous volunteers and organizations support special programs aimed at building better relations among police officers and neighborhoods. (Editor’s Note: Sr. Cpl. Maines recently joined the Storefront, and this is her first meeting with the Advocate.)
Advocate: Will it be an advantage or disadvantage to be a female bicycle officer in these neighborhoods?
Pam: I think working at the Storefront is going to be good, because sometimes women come in and talk about issues like rape, and they want to talk with a woman. So it will help them. And when it comes to searching prostitutes and female drug dealers, these guys (Gurley and Janich) can’t search them. So it will help in that respect, too.
Advocate: What about the fears that could exist among some male police officers that a woman just can’t handle the physical aspects of chasing down bad guys and stuff like that?
Pam: Well, you’re always going to have those (type of people), but it’s just a state of mind.
Mike: You have to do things the same way. We go to the same places we did before. Nothing different. The job is getting to be more verbal now, anyway. You can just about talk anyone into jail. If the officer handles the situation properly, there’s no physical confrontation.
Advocate: Are you planning any special community programs to take advantage of Pam’s perspective?
Mike: We can now tailor some of the existing programs to have a more female perspective, like the program Pam just did on rape prevention. Pam gives us a lot more flexibility.
Pam: I think definitely when talking about rape, women just aren’t going to open up and ask some of the (prevention) questions that they would ask a guy.
Advocate: I understand the Friends of the Storefront, a volunteer organization, provides the department with box fans each year for distribution to needy families in the neighborhoods.
Mike: Yes, we received 162 box fans this year, worth about $3,000, from the Friends. During the summer, when the word gets out that we have fans, people start coming in and asking for them. So we send someone from the Storefront out to their house to see if there is a real need there.
Rick: Sometimes, we have to tell people “no”, but that’s just part of the program. We can only serve the East Dallas area.
Mike: We’ve gone to a lot of homes where they already have two or three fans and an air-conditioning unit, and well, you know, they don’t really need any more fans.
But we go to places where there are elderly folks, and they don’t have any way to stay cool, and they need this help.
Advocate: You guys are acting as if some people attempt to trick you into giving them a fan. Is that right?
Mike: This year, we’ve already had one lady who knew we were coming (to inspect her house), and she turned off the air-conditioner and opened up the windows. But our guy happened to lean on something in the house and discovered it was cold. She didn’t get a fan.
Advocate: What are some of these homes like, where people can’t even afford a fan?
Rick: We’re talking cockroaches running all over, up and down the walls. Just the other day, I was at a house with eight or 10 kids, and no beds.
Pam: It’s sad. Sometimes you just wonder how people can live like that. No clothes, nothing, just destitution, even though they are making some money (by working), but it’s not enough.
Mike: Asian refugees, particularly, have the worst problems. They don’t know the language, they don’t know the customs. So even if they get a job…
Rick: It’s minimum wage, at most.
Mike: Regarding the refugee issue, we’re having a problem in that it’s old news. We still have as many refugees today as we have had in the past. A lot of people were coming out there to help them get jobs. Today, it’s primarily the people in East Dallas who are even aware of the situation.
Advocate: I noticed in the Morning News the other day that civilians working in the Storefront are being eliminated in City budget proposals. Will that affect you?
Mike: They (the civilian community service workers) are, many times, the only people who refugees can come talk to. If they have a question about immigration, documentation, identification, job problems, family problems, the workers are the only people they can sit down and communicate with.
The Storefront is open until 9:30 each weeknight, and we keep someone there to help out. About half of the people who come in, we (the regular officers) can talk to. But the other half, we can’t. We can’t speak Vietnamese or Cambodian.
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