DALLAS (CBSNewsTexas.com) — After losing a decorated veteran officer to suicide this week, Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia said he's considering strengthening his department's wellness unit.
In his first sit down interview since the death of Detective Matthew Bacon, Chief Garcia got candid about the affect the job has on officers, as well as an outdated police mindset he's been trying to combat since he took over two years ago.
"In 1992, if I would've told my partner that, 'Man, that call kind of screwed me up,' my partner would've told me, 'Dude, you need to suck it up. We got 10 more hours tonight,'" Garcia said.
He told CBS News Texas that way of thinking is what led to this sobering fact:
"The leading cause of death of the American police officer is suicide."
Since he started his position as chief, Garcia has tried to make mental wellness a top priority by creating the department's wellness unit and by putting up signs reminding officers that resources are available and that help is always available.
But with Detective Bacon's passing, he said the department needs to "make that [mental health efforts] more robust."
Chief Garcia shared that Bacon was a member of the North Texas Fugitive Task Force, and that rounding up violent criminals could have taken a serious mental toll.
"They are not going after people that committed petty theft," he said. "They are going after the most violent predators in our city, day in and day out, and putting their lives on the line every single day."
On Aug. 7, the detective was one of four officers who shot and killed a murder suspect who they say pulled a gun on them.
Garcia told CBS News Texas that early indications are that the shooting was a justifiable use of deadly force and that there's nothing he's been told or seen from evidence that suggests otherwise.
Left "absolutely devastated," the chief said he had all of his special operations officers brought in to meet with counselors because of the demons some of them may carry.
He also reminded his commanders not to treat officers reaching out and seeking help the way they would have been back in the 90s.
"If I would've said that to my lieutenant, my lieutenant would've looked me in the eye and said, 'Maybe this isn't the right job for you.' It can't be that way," Garcia said. He said this is not going to be the case for his officers who reach out seeking help.
Over the course of his career, Detective Bacon received more than 80 commendations and helped create a database to more easily identify repeat offenders.
He started his police career in 2005 and his fellow officers said it ended like so many days in between—with him risking his life to make the city safer.
for more features.