BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Armonde “Moe” Badger is on patrol in the city of Buffalo.
With only two years on the job, he’s sure of one thing at the end of a shift.
“I want to make it home to my four kids and my beautiful wife, every night,” said Badger, who’s assigned to community policing.
But he also understands the danger that comes with the job.
Especially these days.
“If I allow fear or intimidation to stop me from being able to help a young person or an older lady or an older gentleman to be safe, I might have picked the wrong job.”
Earlier this month, New York City police officer Miosotis Familia was killed ambush-style while sitting in a mobile command unit in the Bronx.
It’s a grim reminder of similar attacks on police — like the ambush in Dallas just over a year ago.
In that case, a gunman opened fire killing five police officers as protesters marched in the downtown area.
“It was horrific,” said interim Dallas Police Chief David Pughes.
Pughes was in Buffalo recently for a homeland security conference.
News 4 asked him about what he called “the biggest tragedy” his department ever encountered.
“His entire goal and aim was to kill law enforcement officers,” he said.
“The shots are echoing everywhere. So everybody believes that there’s multiple shooters coming from every direction shooting police officers. Nobody knows where it’s coming from or why they’re being targeted,” Pughes added.
Just ten days after the Dallas incident, there was another attack on police — this time in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Loved ones, colleagues and residents released black and blue balloons on the anniversary of the deadly attack that claimed the lives of three law enforcement officers.
“I think the biggest concern we have right now is the fact that 21 officers were shot and killed in ambush-style attacks last year. That was the highest total since 1994, and then this year we’ve already seen four officers shot and killed in ambush-style attacks,” said Craig Floyd, president of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a Washington, D.C. based nonprofit.
“Our officers are being targeted simply because of the uniform they wear, the job that they do,” Floyd said. “Unfortunately, too many officers are telling me that their heads are now on swivels. They never know where that next attack may come from.”
Earlier this year, the Pew Research Center released a survey of nearly 8,000 officers on race relations, morale and reform.
Among other things, the survey found that 93 percent of officers say they’ve become more concerned about their safety; 76 percent more reluctant to use force when it is appropriate; and 72 percent less willing to stop and question people who seem suspicious.
As a community police officer in Buffalo, Moe Badger spends a lot of time developing relationships.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Badger said.
Ironically, he says a “bad situation” with the police when he was a civilian actually led him to a law enforcement career.
“It was a situation where I was kind of profiled and done wrong,” he added. “That’s what really made me do the push to become a police officer. It was like, you know what, if I can feel this way and I have no problem with police. If I can feel this type of malice towards police right now. I don’t want my kids to have to grow up with that. I want them to have somebody they can trust.”
Craig Floyd thinks there’s a “broken trust” between the public and police in many communities across the country, and he’s convinced that law enforcement is trying to correct that.
“The public needs to understand that law enforcement officers are our partners. They’re our friends. They’re not our enemies,” Floyd said.
Strengthening the bond between the public and police is a work in progress.
It can be complicated, prompting more questions than answers.
“How does a kid have a bias against police?” Moe Badger wondered as he steered his police cruiser away from people standing in the street. “I’ve never dealt with this kid. This kid probably has never dealt with police in general. So why do you hate police that you don’t even know? So we’re trying to bridge that gap and build relationships and I think it’s working.”
With only a couple of years on the job, Badger brings a fresh approach to police work in a changing environment.
But he knows the uniform makes him visible in the community, something that cuts both ways.
“We as police officers were well aware what this job entailed before we took it.”
“Most of the time when we’re protecting people they’re total strangers. And I think sometimes people fail to realize that we’re protecting people that sometimes have no regard for us,” he said.