Deputy Chief THOMAS LAWRENCE is slow to open up about himself. He makes statements such as, “I’m not a very good storyteller”, when queried about the most memorable days during his 25-plus years on the force. With a little prodding, though, the soft-spoken new Northeast Division commander allows us a glimpse into his life and career path — the former Naval officer has worked Homeland Security, SWAT, the Explosive Ordinance Unit and, most recently, commanded the Central Business District, to name a few, and he enjoys the occasional jog during his (scarce) spare time.
Why did you decide to become a cop?
I’m not sure, to tell you the truth. It’s something I always thought about. I was headed down a different path, studying engineering in college. Once I got here, though, I couldn’t see myself ever doing anything else.
Tell us something about you — family, hobbies, etcetera.
I am no longer married. I have two children who are in college. I don’t have much of a social life, but I like to run. I grew up here, in Oak Cliff mostly, but my family is set in Dallas.
you’ve been On the force since 1983, you must have seen your share of excitement and danger, no?
I’ve enjoyed this job, but I’ve been injured a bunch of times — had my nose broken, hand broken. You name it, it’s probably happened to me.
How did those injuries mostly happen?
They all happened during pursuits — foot pursuits, all of them. One day I stopped a car outside a 7-11 store near East Grand and I-30. There was a 15-year-old boy driving the car, and he starts to take off, and I reach inside the car to grab him, and he drags me down the street and ends up driving through the front of a store window. He got away on foot and another officer caught him nearby. I didn’t break any bones that time, but I did have a lot of glass that I was still picking out of my skin weeks later.
Physical abuse aside, what else is tough about this job?
You see a lot of painful things. I was on the motorcade where Sr. Cpl. Victor Lozada-Tiada was killed last year; and during the apartment shooting where a man shot and killed his 3-year-old son with SWAT officers watching. These things are difficult for everyone because they just make you feel vulnerable. From a leadership and commander standpoint, you have to work through it with the other officers. They want to be tough, but you have to make sure they are dealing with it OK. And, you know — I knew Victor, too — you have to work through your own grief sometimes.
Must be a rewarding job for you to still enjoy it after that type of thing?
It is rewarding — how do I say this without sounding sentimental? I joined the force, I think, for the same reason I joined the Navy years ago. It was a service-oriented decision. It broke my heart the first time I encountered someone who had truly been victimized. You see so many bad things happen, and you can respond to it one of two ways: You can become hardened and cynical, or it can make you more committed to try to make a difference. It’s hard to believe that you can. I do my best to convince the other officers that they can, and that they do, make a difference.
How do you like the Northeast?
I haven’t been here long, but I can already tell this is a strong community. The multi-tenant properties are probably the biggest challenge. There’s no doubt that the neighbors who get involved make a big difference. You can tell just by looking. Even more than the crime statistics and numbers, it is about quality of life. When I was a rookie we called this area [smiles] “the country club”.