HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Law enforcement officers in Houston are on high alert following the ambush-style murders on police in Dallas.
Houston Mayor Sylvester turner called for calm here in the wake of the attacks.
"We are not on opposite teams, we are on the same team," said Turner. He made a direct connection to the recent deaths of citizens by police officers elsewhere -- asking that individuals do not blame entire groups for the acts of just a few.
"Calmer heads must prevail. If we are going to move forward we cannot be at odds with one another," Turner said.
Police say they are ready for whatever comes their way. Interim Houston Police Chief Martha Montalvo says she encourages officers to ask to ride in pairs if they don't feel safe on the street.
"I have asked officers to be vigilant and safe," she said.
The sentiment among some of those officers working the streets was of unease.
"Just the fact that you're in uniform makes you a target," said former HPD officer Mark Stephens. He spent ten of his 30 years in law enforcement on patrol. He says officers are trained to compartmentalize any fears for their own safety, to focus on the situation before them.
"You can't let the fact that your job is dangerous get in the way of what you do," Stephens said.
Two police psychologists from HPD are headed to Dallas to help officers there cope with this attack.
HPD works to bridge trust gap, overcome manpower shortage
There are renewed calls today in Houston to increase community policing efforts -- a push to get officers into communities for more than just answering 911 calls. Community leaders say officers need to be in the community to know Houstonians in times of calm as well as crisis.
"It makes a better relationship with police so when something happens, they will call you," police union leader Ray Hunt told abc13.
"If you don't build a relationship on truth, it leaves room for misperceptions," Houston Bishop James Dixon, who at times works with police on community issues, told us, "What happens is children grow up thinking it is us vs. them because us don't know them and them don't know us."
Interim Houston Police Chief Martha Montalvo called community policing HPD's philosophy today. "There is no place for us vs. them," Montalvo said today, "We build relationships and with relationships comes trust."
In Houston, police department figures show that lack of resources is real. The Houston Police Officers' Union suggests Houston is short 1,500 officers. When compared to other cities, Houston has fewer officers per resident than many others. A recent Dallas Police Department study showed Houston has 1 officer for every 418 residents. It is the fewest officers per resident compared to many other cities:
Dallas has 1 officer for every 366 residents;
Philadelphia has 1 officer for every 243 residents;
Miami, FL has 1 for every 367 residents; and
Washington, DC has 1 officer for every 167 residents.
Community gathers for peaceful demonstration downtown
Dozens of Black Lives Matter activists rallied together just hours after five police officers were killed in Dallas.
The group was much smaller than what we've seen at previous rallies. They were escorted by 14 HPD officers, and representatives from the mayor's office were on hand to provide water to protesters.
"There are people here right now who are scared to death to be here right now because we don't know who is watching," said community activist Ashton P. Woods.
Texas politicians respond on social media
Former President George W. Bush
"Laura and I are heartbroken by the heinous acts of violence in our city last night. Murdering the innocent is always evil, never more so than when the lives taken belong to those who protect our families and communities.
"Laura and I have seen firsthand the dedication, professionalism, and courage of the Dallas Police Department. Their commitment to safety and justice makes us proud to call Dallas home. Our hearts go out to the families of the fallen. We pray for the wounded officers to recover fully and quickly. We commend Mayor Rawlings, Chief Brown, and all our city's leaders and public servants who continue to organize an effective response to this tragedy. And we join our fellow citizens in saluting the fine law enforcement officers in Dallas and across the country who put their own lives on the line to keep all lives safe."
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee
"While Dallas Police officers were doing their sworn duty in the midst of peaceful protest in the city of Dallas, police officers were shot down in the streets and four officers have lost their lives in the line of duty. There is no excuse for this violent act against law enforcement and the many innocent peaceful protesters in downtown Dallas that occurred last night. My heart and prayers go out to the families of the deceased officers and I wish a speedy recovery to the other injured officers. Any protest of any kind must be non-violent. We must draw together and stand in complete opposition to the unprovoked attacks on our law enforcement. Together, we can get through this tragic day."
Congressman Kevin Brady
"I'm heartbroken by the news out of Dallas. That anyone would take a moment where Americans joined together in peace to savagely attack those who have sworn to protect and serve is just sickening. Our prayers are with the officers, their families and all Texans who believe in the sanctity of life and who are grieving today with our men and women in blue."
Full text of Lt. Governor Patrick's statement:
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Dallas Police Department, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) and Dallas first responders. Several officers have been killed and many have been injured. During times like this all Texans must stand united as this investigation continues and those responsible are stopped, apprehended and brought to justice. Please pray for the families of the officers killed and wounded in the line of duty in this horrific attack. Pray for the men and women in law enforcement across Texas and across our nation. They put their lives on the line every day for us. This is not just a Dallas tragedy, but also a Texas and an America tragedy."