Durham police 'extra vigilant' following NYC police slayings
Posted December 22, 2014
Durham, N.C. — Officers in Durham have been told to exercise "extra vigilance" in the wake of the fatal shootings of two New York City police officers Saturday by a man who allegedly wanted retaliation for the deaths of black men at the hands of white police.
"They're very well-trained. We're confident in them, and we're asking them to just watch out for any dangers that could arise (while at the same time) continuing to treat the people of Durham with the professionalism and the respect they deserve," Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said Monday.
Following what has been characterized as the "assassinations" of Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu inside their patrol car in Brooklyn, police departments across the country, including the Triangle, are on heightened alert.
New York officials say the suspected gunman, who committed suicide, had alluded on social media just before the attacks to the officer-involved deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York.
In recent weeks across the country, protests have erupted after grand juries declined to indict the officers involved in both cases.
Durham has seen several demonstrations – some peaceful and some not – that have included some protesters encouraging violence against police.
"I'm concerned that there may be a copycat anywhere in the United States, and I'm fearful for every police department that's out there," Lopez said.
Lopez has ordered more patrols and extra training, but he says his officers will continue to do what they have always done.
"This is not changing us to the extent that we're going to start doing policing differently," he said.
The recent demonstrations in the Bull City aren't the first.
In January, anger erupted over the death of 17-year-old Jesus Huerta, who shot himself while in police custody.
Activists hurled rocks to shatter windows at a downtown police substation, doused cruisers with ketchup and spray-painted the word "pig" on some vehicles.
Still, Lopez says, the nationwide anti-police climate now eclipses even those direct hits.
It's a sentiment echoed by John Midgette, executive director of the North Carolina Police Benevolence Association.
"To hear chants in the streets of, 'What do we want? Dead cops,' well, we deal with people every day who take those opportunities very seriously," Midgette said.
Now more than ever, Midgette says, officers understand that.
"Officers, I think, are thinking twice about their involvement in doing their job the way they know they're trained to do it," he said.