DALLAS – A police department in a Texas Bible Belt community has placed large “In God We Trust” decals on its patrol vehicles in response to recent violence against law enforcement officers, drawing criticism from a watchdog group that says the decals amount to an illegal government endorsement of religion.
The decision by police this month to unveil the phrase in Childress, an agricultural community of some 6,100 people at the southern edge of the Texas Panhandle, follows a similar move by dozens of other police agencies elsewhere in the country.
Police Chief Adrian Garcia said he decided to add the decals in response to recent attacks on law enforcement personnel that have received broad attention, including the Aug. 28 killing of a sheriff’s deputy who was shot 15 times at a Houston-area gas station.
“I think with all the assaults happening on officers across the country … it’s time we get back to where we once were,” Garcia told the Red River Sun newspaper. He did not respond to an Associated Press request for comment.
The Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund notes that eight officers have been shot and killed in the U.S. in the last month — and four died in the span of 10 days — but shooting deaths of officers from January through September of this year were actually down 13 percent compared to the same period last year.
Other law enforcement agencies have cited different reasons for adding the phrase to their vehicles. Mark Nichols, the sheriff of Randolph County, Missouri, said he had it added to his department’s fleet in July out of a sense of patriotism.
“It’s our nation’s motto and we want to be patriotic toward our country,” Nichols said.