After Dallas

GREENFIELD — Jeff Rasche usually wears a shirt and tie to work.

But on Friday morning, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department’s lead detective selected a black polo shirt with a sheriff’s star etched on the chest. He thought about the officers who were killed in Texas the night before, all because of that star.

Five Dallas police officers were fatally shot and seven others wounded Thursday night while providing security for a Black Lives Matter protest over the deaths of two black men killed by police this week in separate incidents in Louisiana and Minnesota.

Officials say Thursday’s shooting — evidence of growing racial tension between police and the public they serve — was the deadliest day for U.S. law enforcement since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Two civilians were also wounded.

Thursday night’s shooting highlighted how much society has changed, local police officers said; news of officer-involved shootings, spread quickly through social media, triggered violence elsewhere.

Friday, those tensions appeared to have reached Hancock County.

Overnight, vandals scrawled “kill GPD” — a threat aimed at the Greenfield Police Department — and “RIP state troopers” messages on benches and signs along the Pennsy Trail in Greenfield.

The messages, scribbled in black marker, were found between County Road 150W and Center Street, and officers couldn’t help but wonder if the vandalism was related to the events of the days prior.

Dallas was among several U.S. cities Thursday where demonstrators protested the police killings of two black men: A Minnesota officer on Wednesday fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop while Castile was in a car with a woman, who streamed the incident in a Facebook video, and a child.

Castile’s death came on the heels of officers shooting Alton Sterling, a black Louisiana man who was shot in the chest after being pinned to the pavement by two officers. That, too, was captured on a cellphone video.

Snipers opened fire at about 8:45 p.m. Thursday in Dallas while hundreds of people gathered to protest the killings.

It was unclear how many shooters were involved in Thursday’s attack, the The Associated Press reported Friday.

Authorities initially said three suspects were in custody and a fourth was dead, killed by a robot-delivered bomb in a parking garage where he had exchanged fire with officers.

Before dying, the suspect told officers he was upset about recent shootings and wanted to kill whites, “especially white officers,” the Dallas police chief said.

Friday, police officers across Hancock County came to work with their heads held high but with sorrow in their hearts.

Members of police departments across the country work hard every day to have positive relationships with the people they protect, Rasche said. He wishes people weren’t so quick to scrutinize an officer’s actions without thinking about the split-second, life-or-death decisions police often have to make.

Officers get up every day knowing they will face dangerous situations, Greenfield patrolman Jerami Summers said. But they get up and do the job anyway, he said.

“It’s a calling,” Greenfield Detective Sgt. Ron Chittum agreed.

The police officers killed in Dallas died as they were running toward the gunfire, directing the Black Lives Matter protestors to run away. That’s what police officers are trained to do, Chittum said.

That want to help people is a fundamental desire every officer has, Sheriff’s Capt. Robert Campbell added.

There is nothing more rewarding than helping a driver stranded on the side of the road change a tire or giving someone a ride when no one else can, Campbell said.

But police officers are taught to stay a step ahead of each person they encounter. Sometimes, that means pulling a gun before someone points a gun at them, Campbell said.

The Hancock County Sheriff’s Department is the process of reviewing its use-of-force policy, officials said; department administrators began looking into their procedures earlier this year to ensure their officers were following what experts say is the best approach to dealing with suspects.

Violent instances like the attack in Dallas or the shootings in Minnesota or Louisiana put both police and citizens on edge, which could lead to more dangerous interactions between them, officers said.

Rasche and Campbell worry their officers will hesitate in a dangerous situation, skirting their training out of fear of being scrutinized by the public.

“That’s very dangerous,” Rasche said.

Law enforcement leaders say they will keep close watch on their officers in the coming days to ensure everyone is grieving and coping with what happened in a healthy way, Greenfield Police Chief John Jester said. They have staffers in place who can meet and counsel their fellow officers.

But Jester suspects the anxiety will linger.

“It’s been a complete 180 switch from 9/11,” he said. “After 9/11, it was like an officer could do no wrong; now, it’s like police officers can’t do anything right.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.