LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rick Sanders says now, more than ever before, they need qualified police officers. But he says it's difficult to recruit when gun violence toward police is on the rise.
The attack in Dallas Thursday night, had the commissioner calling his own sons who are also in law enforcement.
He said the conversation was about taking their confusion and anger of the officer attack to being cautious and not over-reacting on the job. He also reminded his sons to be calm. Sanders said he can only hope the rest of the country does the same.
Many police families have the same concerns for their loved ones. We spoke to Sanders about the tragedy of in Dallas as well as two former officers who are well- known in the area.
"It's sickening," Supporting Heroes Executive Director Eric Johnson said.
"I saw the images of police officers on the ground not moving," Eric Johnson said of watching the news coverage in Dallas Thursday night.
Five officers dead in Texas. The news was still sinking in hours later for Johnson as he sat next to a plaque with the names of Kentucky officers killed in the line of duty.
"When the shots rang, what did we see?" Eric Johnson asked, "we didn't see officers running away, we saw officers running toward the danger to help the people that were protesting police."
"It should bother everyone," WAVE 3 News Safety and Security expert D'Shawn Johnson said.
D'Shawn Johnson, a retired black officer who was shot in the line of duty by a man who had shot three other people, said just like Supporting Heroes his heart is with the families of the officers.
"Their family wasn't thinking they weren't coming home," he said.
D'Shawn Johnson said when he was shot, the pain was worse for his mother who found out watching him being loaded onto an ambulance on the news.
"With them rolling me into the hospital," he said, "she saw me and it was a tragic experience for her."
D'Shawn Johnson worries the divide between the community and police will cause fewer minorities to become police officers. Sanders said the numbers are already down among all qualified candidates and he believes part of the problem is the increase in gun violence and officers getting gunned down for no apparent reason.
"I remember back when I applied to be a Jefferson County Police Officer years ago," Sanders said, "I was competing against 3,000 applicants and today, the State Police is getting 300 to 400 applications."
All three men agree communities must move beyond race and hold everyone accountable.
Sanders said, "We're seeing people that are overly aggressive toward law enforcement and overly critical of law enforcement and then law enforcement is seeing their brothers and sisters dying and they're overly cautious and that just creates a bad environment."
Sanders has sent a message to police in Dallas and to Texas State Police if they need officers from Kentucky to help during funerals or in any way, they will be sent. Eric Johnson says a group like Supporting Heroes is working in Dallas to help the families there.
Supporting Heroes has organized a candlelight vigil for the Dallas officers and their families. It will be held at the Police Memorial in Jefferson Square at 6th and Jefferson Streets on Saturday night at 9:30.