They think about the difficulties of being a police officer, and the ultimate sacrifice they may have to make.
But foremost, when metro Atlanta cops heard of yet more killings of police officers in Baton Rouge, La. on Sunday, their hearts went out to those officers and the loved ones they leave behind.
DeKalb County police sent that message in a single tweet, citing the Bible, Matthew 5:9.
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.”
Atlanta police tweeted a photo of an Atlanta police badge with a black band around it, the symbol of sympathy for a fallen officer. “How much longer will we have to wear this band?” the tweet read.
The slaying in Baton Rouge of three police officers and wounding of three others on Sunday further dazed an already stunned public, bringing into sharp relief the tensions of this summer of violence, racial strife and worry.
Police officers had already felt the heavy scrutiny upon them since the uproar after a police officer killed a black man two summers ago in Ferguson, Mo.
Some cops have felt a growing distance between themselves and the communities they protect. Some have become more cautious in pursuing hunches on traffic stops or other incidents, said Frank Rotondo, executive director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police.
“They still do their jobs as they’re assigned to do,” but they may be more cautious on “self-initiated” police work, he said. Moreover, many have become more conscious of wearing their protective vests and making sure their body cameras are running when they engage with a person.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office has been on a higher alert since five police officers were killed in Dallas on July 7, said Lt. Jay Baker. Those deadly attacks occurred during protests against the fatal police-involved shootings of black men.
The motives behind Sunday’s Baton Rouge shootings remain unknown.
Shortly after the Dallas killings, officers in the Georgia cities of Roswell and Valdosta took fire. A Roswell officer was shot at while pursuing a 21-year-old who was allegedly driving a stolen Ford Expedition, and a Valdosta officer got into a shootout with a suspect during a car break-in.
“We know the risk is still here,” said Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan. “It affects officers. They’re human, just like everyone else. They’re concerned and their families are concerned about their safety.”
There is a flip side to all this. Numerous police officers say they are seeing more and more people reaching out to them, sharing their appreciation of the work they do.
“People are purchasing meals for us, and officers are coming home to find anonymous gifts on their front porch,” said Baker of the Cherokee sheriff’s office.
Meanwhile, many departments are doing more to reach out to the public, holding citizen police academies, meetings with religious leaders and sponsoring activities that engage school kids, Rotondo said.
“That’s what police are doing right now, blending the community into their decision-making,” he said.