DALLAS — For the past few days, there's been one constant presence in the Aurora shooting tragedy: The face of Police Chief Dan Oates.
Texas law enforcement officials gathered in Dallas Monday for the Texas Association of Sheriffs convention, and they had praise for the way Oates has been handling a situation for which there is little training available.
"I think it's a learn-by-experience thing," said Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez.
With the impact of iPhones, the Internet and television growing daily, the pressure on a peace officer to be able to speak in-depth immediately to a broad audience is growing, too.
"It's important that the men and women who disseminate our information through the state are competent in talking to the public," said State Rep. Allen Fletcher (R-Cypress), the only member of the Texas legislature to have been in law enforcement. "The Aurora chief has done a great job."
For a sheriff, an election may be his or her biggest test in the public eye. A situation like Aurora is a case where an official had no option in dealing with a national audience.
Sheriff Valdez said if you know your community, you can talk to them. "I think it's important for all of us in public office to keep in touch with the community, and that law enforcement officer [in Aurora] knows his community," she said. "Right now, his community is bleeding, right now his community is hurting. So that person has to be able to attend to the needs of the community, and he's doing it in a very decent manner."
In an era of instant media access, law enforcemnent can become the identity of a community.