TCU Police are searching for a suspect in a local attempted armed robbery. (Photo by Hank Kilgore)

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The white and purple cars, the black uniforms and the often friendly smiles are just a few of the markers of the TCU police department.

One marker that is harder to see on the surface, but unites many of the TCU officers, is their background as officers for the Fort Worth Police Department.

For many TCU officers, working for the TCU department means better leadership, less stress and a safer environment for the officers.

“When you’re an officer in the 16th largest city in the nation, that is a lot of stress to carry on yourself for 25 plus years,” said TCU officer Clay Buckelew.

Robert Rangel, the interim assistant chief of police, has seen a similar effect and said that when officers just go from call to call seeing people at their worst, it takes a toll on them. If the police department becomes out of touch with its community, officers develop a “community fatigue” resulting in a negative view of the area in which they work and the people who they police.

A better and safer environment is attractive for officers who have been serving large cities, such as Fort Worth for over two decades.

“The industry fails to recognize the emotional toll that is taken on police,” said Rangel. “It’s like being in combat for a while. You become disillusioned to the human spirit.”

With less than 35 officers in the department, the community is tight knit and easy for both officers and the community to remember familiar faces and form relationships.

“As an officer in Fort Worth, it’s hard to form lasting relationships with the community because the people are more transient,” said Buckelew. “I can’t be a personable guy on the streets of Fort Worth. At TCU, you know you have people for four years so there is more community.”

This emphasis on community is a philosophy the department as a whole is trying to emphasize.

“The department and community team up as one and use eyes and ears to interact with the people,” said Rangel. “It’s about the relationship with the community.”

Rangel said that community policing is only effective when residents believe police officers are there to help them and not harm them. When residents feel comfortable reporting issues it changes the dynamic and becomes a safer environment for everyone.

It is essential for officers to understand that when a member of the community resorts to calling the police, they are already having a bad day, Rangel said.

“You are encountering people at their lowest point,” said Rangel.

The TCU department has worked hard to train officers on deescalating situations when they arrive at the scene.

“When people are scared, they often show anger and other emotions that tie into that and it is still our job to treat them with dignity,” Rangel said. “Everyone is human and everyone makes mistakes but knowing how to talk to people can even their emotions.”

Buckelew adds that the department is more interested in making sure everyone is safe, rather than disciplining students. “We won’t get you out of everything, but we will help you get through it.”