Behind the badge: SWFL officers protecting communities through tense climate

Posted at 8:55 AM, Nov 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-23 14:06:11-05

LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Tension between police and the public remains at a boiling point across the nation.  4 in Your Corner's spoke with Southwest Florida officers about the dangers they face every day.

"Every day they get up dress like this...they put on their vest and gun.  They go out and face everybody's fears."

"We would rather be in the middle with the bad guys with the guns than have the public have to suffer that," says Corporal Philip Mullen of Cape Coral Police.

Hundreds of officers work to protect Lee County daily.

"It's a passion...something deep within.  I can't explain it. I've been doing this for nearly 20 years," says Lt. Jay Rodriguez of Fort Myers Police.

But tensions have been high between the public and officers across the country.  A report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund shows a dramatic increase in officer deaths across the nation in 2016.

"The officer is going to be on high alert, because he doesn't know if you're going to be that bad guy with a gun that's going to try to kill him," says Mullen.

Causes of death vary, but just this weekend 4 officers were shot nationwide, including a Sanibel police officer who was conducting a routine traffic stop before a bullet pierced his shoulder.

"It's a tragic event.  It can happen to anybody. It can happen to me.  It can happen to anybody I work with," says Officer Thomas Wagner of Cape Coral Police.

So how do officers protecting our communities in Southwest Florida face their everyday duties in today's tense climate?  "What we'll do is we'll mentally prepare and we'll expect the worst.  So if it does happen, we're prepared for it," says Mullen.

Agencies Fox 4 spoke with in SWFL say their relationships are better than most cities around the country.  "We have a great relationship with our citizens," says Mullen.

"Our community relations are getting better," says Rodriguez.

But each department is still fighting misconceptions about the job.  "We come out here everyday just trying to help people out. We're not looking to make people lives harder," says Mullen.

Because behind the vest and the badge, there's a human life that matters too.

"The number of good law abiding citizens that support the police far outnumber those that want to hurt us.  And as long as those numbers continue to stay as strong as they are, and as long as we continue to have the support of our community, then you know we'll be okay," says Rodriguez.