Officials call for 'prayers with legs' in aftermath of Dallas sniper shootings

by Tammi Ledbetter/Norm Miller, |
Grand Prairie Police Chief speaks with a reporter July 11, 2016. | Tammi Ledbetter/TEXAN

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas (TEXAN) — In response to stunned and afraid DFW Metroplex citizens following the recent sniper shootings of Dallas police officers, Grand Prairie city officials met with local citizens at the Grand Prairie Police and Fire Department headquarters off President George Bush Tollway at noon July 11.

The 45-minute meeting highlighted officials' commitment to the citizenry's safety and an appeal to pray for the fallen and their families, as well as for current public servants .

Interrupted several times with cheers, applause and shouts of "Amen" during his remarks, Grand Prairie Police Chief Steve Dye cited the city's mayor, Ron Jensen, who said recently: "Yes, we need prayers. But we need prayers with legs. We need prayers, but we need actions to accompany our prayers."

What kind of actions? "I would ask you for peaceful thoughtful actions to accompany your prayers," Chief Dye said.

"It has come to the point that we cannot communicate respectfully without violence," Dye said. "We fully acknowledge that we as public servants should be held accountable. But we also don't understand why, when officers across the country may make a mistake, why all of us are stereotyped as bad or evil."

Dye recounted the response of Dallas police officers last Friday night who "when the shooting started, the officers ran to the threat to protect those who were protesting and demonstrating. And I think that sums it up."

"We go to church. Our kids go to school with your kids. We go to the same stores you do. We're community members like you. We just have a special calling because it's in our hearts to protect and serve," Dye said.

Appealing for the community's and the media's help, Dye said, "We need to get the message out on what we really do all day long which is almost entirely helping people and problem solving."

"It's time for society to be more vocal about how you feel about your police officers, and how we work together to solve differences, solve problems, and to be leaders in mutual respect, and mutual respectful communication," Dye said.

"You see, as police officers, we cannot accomplish that alone. And what I'm asking you to do is to help us sustain this change toward more civility, more honor, and more support for your police officers. And all we ask is that, when you see us, tell us how much you appreciate us because that goes a long way in our professional lives after dealing with negativity."

Dye invited those within earshot to "go to our citizen police academy and become more informed about how we can work together to provide a safe environment."

"It's just a shame that the world has gotten to the point where police officers are targets," Dye continued. "And folks, it's true what we say: we are the thin blue line, as we're proud to be the thin blue line. But to be that thin blue line and prevent chaos in this community and in this nation, we must work together. That's what makes America great because we do respect our police officers, and our police officers should respect our community members."

Attempting to continue despite sustained applause, Dye said that when an error is made on either side of the thin blue line, "we want to hold each other accountable. And we will get better. There are many fine police departments in the United States, but there are none finer than the Grand Prairie Police Department."

Shouts of "Amen" and cheers seasoned another round of boisterous applause.

Saying he is proud of his officers' character, their level of training, and level of equipment, Dye also noted gratitude for the "salary and benefits provided by the city leaders, so we can attract and pay the best officers. We are truly blessed in our city."

"Grand Prairie understands diversity, "Dye continued. "When diversity is working successfully and together, it's a beautiful thing. And folks, In Grand Prairie, we figured out how to make diversity work. I am so proud that our city can be very diverse and be very unified at the same time.

Against a rising tide of swelling applause, Dye said, "We're not perfect as a city, but we've got it right. We've got it right when it comes to not being divisive, but being inclusive and working together."

Dye thanked those attending the meeting for "showing all of our police officers and civilian police how much you love them and how much you care about them. I would ask that during this difficult week, when many funerals laying many heroes to rest that we remember those families, that we remember all those families of the fallen because folks it's not just about this week, it's about moving forward having lost that family member, that loved one serving in our community. Let's remember those heroes. Let's say an extra prayer."

Mayor Jensen addressed the crowd, saying: "Many of us are pray-ers. We grew up praying. My dad is a Baptist minister and we prayed. And prayers with legs - that's beautiful. We certainly need to lift up those who have fallen and their families," Jensen said, reminding the people to "put feet to their prayers."

"But I'm concerned about us, right here, this group. We need to pray for each other. Yourself. We need to pray tonight because you don't want your heart to get hardened over this fiasco.

"We need to pray that God will help us to do this individually. Do that for me, today," Jensen said.

Grand Prairie's volunteer police chaplain Emil Balliet closed the meeting in prayer. But people still milled around for another 30 minutes sharing quiet moments and offering each other support

Reassuring the crowd attending and those watching via Univision channel 23, Chief Dye said he has never been more proud of the Grand Prairie police force when all the "officers expressed the resolve to be resilient, and to not let any of this deter them from going out and protecting and serving at the highest levels as they have done for years and years. They said, 'Chief, we're not gonna back off. Now, more than ever, our citizens need us, and we're here for them. And that tells you a lot right there, doesn't it?'

"So rest assured, no matter how bad it gets, we're never gonna leave you," Dye said. "We're always gonna be here for you, and we're gonna run to you to protect you. God bless you all. Thank you."

This article published by the Texan. Used with permission.