BRADFORD COUNTY, Fla. – They've sworn to protect and serve, but several law enforcement officers are concerned for their own safety after three police officers were killed over the weekend.
Two New York policemen were shot and killed in their patrol car on Saturday. The shooter then killed himself. And another officer was ambushed and killed in Tarpon Springs near Tampa on Sunday. Detectives arrested a suspect a little later.
Every call, every traffic stop, officers know they're at risk. Danger comes with the job. It's part of the oath to protect and serve.
"You know, I'm always aware of my surroundings," said Sgt. Joe Shiller with the Bradford County Sheriff's Office. "It just heightens it up because of everything that's going on. Because you don't know if the next person walking up to you or next to you could do something dangerous."
Bradford County deputies know the threat is very real. But they do everything they can to avoid it.
"Be aware of your surroundings. When you make contact with somebody, make sure that you keep an eye on their hands, their waistbands, make sure they don't grab anything," Shiller said. "And also to come and try to talk to them. See what's going on exactly, because sometimes just saying the wrong word might trigger something."
Sheriff Gordon Smith said the key to safety is community involvement. He and his deputies try to bond with the people they serve, but they train to be ready for anything.
"We're drinking coffee right now and our next call, we could be fighting for our lives," Smith said. "Everybody wants to say, 'Treat everybody the same.' Hogwash. That is bull butter. Because every case is different."
News4Jax crime and safety expert Gil Smith said there's a lot of backlash against police after the cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, but he said officers in our area are doing a nice job of working with the community and showing that they are here to help.
He thinks Bradford County's setting a good example.