Each month, the Advocate visits with Sgt. Michael Gurley, Sr. Cpl. Pam Maines and Sr. Cpl. Rich Janich of the East Dallas Storefront police station, 1327 N. Peak Street (670-5523). The Storefront is best-known for its bicycle patrol officers, who pedal the streets of East Dallas weekdays. The City of Dallas funds the Storefronts, but numerous volunteers and organizations assist in developing special programs aimed at building better relations among police officers and neighborhoods. (Editor’s Note: Officers Gurley and Janich were vacationing and did not participate in this month’s discussion.)
Advocate: Now, you spent parts of four days at the Dallas Independent School District headquarters during the recent student and teacher protests. What were your impressions of the protest compared with the media’s portrayal of the incident?
Pam: The media was there the whole time, and when anything happened, they were right on top of it. So they got all of the highlights, but most of the time, it wasn’t nearly as exciting as it was when I watched it on TV that night.
The kids would stand on a corner and try to get people to honk their horns. Well, that started causing (traffic) accidents, so we started writing tickets. That didn’t sit well with the kids. They looked at us as if we were trying to break up their demonstration. But all we were trying to do was keep the thing within the boundaries of the law.
Advocate: How did the students respond to you while you were on duty?
Pam: Most of the time, they chanted “let him go, let him go” when we were writing the tickets. They all got in synch with that.
Most of the kids were pretty well-behaved. But, you know, some of the kids’ signs had the f-word on them. And one of the kids said something to me, like: “Do you understand what we’re doing out here at all?” I didn’t want to get into a debate right then, so I didn’t respond. And the kid said: “I didn’t think so. You need half of a brain to understand what we’re doing, and I guess you don’t have half of a brain.”
I’m thinking, here I have a college degree, and this kid who doesn’t even have a high school diploma is saying I’m too dumb to understand this protest. I thought that was pretty funny.
Advocate: As a policeman, how does it feel to have people yelling at you, calling you names and such, when you are doing your job?
Pam: You know, Rick and I were at a presentation the other day, and the kids there wanted to know: “How come police officers don’t have any emotions?”
And we just looked at each other; I mean, how could we not have any emotions? Rick told them: “Hey, we’re human. We make mistakes. We have feelings.”
At an event like that (the DISD protests), people usually aren’t yelling at me personally, they’re yelling at the uniform. You know, we hear all of the stuff they say, and we get upset about it sometimes, and we talk about it to each other. But you can’t really react to it, because that’s what they want you to do.
It’s weird: We can have a situation where someone says something to me that is abusive or offensive, and in my opinion they are “breaching my peace.” But that really isn’t something I as a police officer can do something about, because we have to have a citizen file the complaint (to take action).
A citizen’s peace can be breached, but as a police officer, mine can’t.
Advocate: Any other thoughts on the demonstration?
Pam: You know, something else that was interesting: The first day of the demonstration, an officer was hit in the head with a bottle, and there wasn’t all that much response from the public.
But the second day, when the horse and the officer riding it were hit by a car, and they were thrown onto the car and both were injured, one of the TV people told me that the telephone lines at his station lit up.
It seems that everyone was concerned about the horse, and no one was all that concerned about the officer. Sure the horse was pretty badly hurt, but what about the officer?
That was really interesting to me, how people were so concerned about that horse and not all that concerned about the officer.
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