PALMER PARK, Md. - Flags flew at half-staff outside Prince George’s County’s police headquarters in Maryland on Friday. This time, the rank-and-file is grieving after losing their fellow officers in Dallas during a deadly ambush shooting during a protest.
“They were out there – at the end of this, they couldn't have expected the degree to which they were risking their lives to preserve the rights of their fellow Americans to express themselves,” said Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski.
He said he has told every officer and civilian employee in his department that the tragic events in Texas as well as the police-involved shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota impact us all.
Stawinski is no stranger to navigating through tragedies and all too familiar with leading a community and a department through trying times. Back in March, a gunman opened fire in an ambush-style shooting outside the county's police headquarters. Officer Jacai Colson was killed by friendly fire during the shootout between police and the suspect.
“The piece that gets overlooked isn't the officers themselves because we have all come to terms with the dangers of this job,” Stawinski said. “I think the piece that gets overlooked in that is the families who see their loved ones go out to engage in this profession. But in this environment, the family is more uncertain than ever about what dangers their loved ones will face.”
The police chief said the sniper shooting that killed five Dallas police officers is a tragic turning point for police and the community.
“We are failing to value what makes our country the most promising in all the world – by failing to do what is our obligation, and that is to speak freely and consider one another's views, and then come to a consensus about moving forward for the best result for everyone,” he said.
Stawinski said on the heels of the violence this week, all sides need to come together.
“If we don't look at these seven deaths in totality and agree that we need to back away from the brink of something and use that, no matter what side of the argument you are on, to good purpose," the police chief said. "Maybe that is the good that comes out of these tragedies so that we all come out of this safer,”