In the first panicked hours following the ambush on Dallas police officers, the department released a photo of a man carrying a long gun as a person of interest.
But he was the wrong guy—and one who never broke any laws by carrying that gun.
“I also don’t fault Dallas police for immediately listing that person as a person of interest,” said Ray Hunt with the Houston Police Officers Union. “Just like anybody else that had guns on the scene, they would be considered persons of interest. That’s just called clues in police work.”
The worklist for police has gotten longer as more people will be sporting pistols and handguns through the state’s open carry law, which took effect this year. And at any scene, it may require more resources.
“It may take another officer to be there to watch that person to make sure that person is not part of the problem,” Hunt said.
But the Houston Police Officers Union is more concerned about the public.
“The number of people who were gonna be calling, because they’re not used to seeing that,” Hunt said.
So far, it hasn’t seemed too problematic.
Since January, the Houston Police Department says out of the tens of thousands of calls a month, only 62 were weapon related.
And out of those, only 19 were actual open-carry situations.
Considering the shootings we have seen around the country, it’s possible people are hypersensitive to weapons. So for now, police can only hope that dispatchers will determine how serious the threat is.
“If we find out that someone is carrying and they’re allowed to be carrying we are allowed to disarm them during the investigation,” Hunt said. “And then give them their weapon back at the end.”