THANK YOU…those are such simple words to express my appreciation to you for your role that helped create the beautiful tribute funeral services for Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal, Harris County Sherriff’s Office, who had been ambushed 5 days prior by a man stopped for a traffic violation.
The event began with a call from Cy-Fair Chief of Police Eric Mendez on Sat. Sept. 28 at 2:43pm. He wondered if anyone had called me from the Sheriff’s Office about hosting the services for the Deputy. I said no, he said he’d give them my cell phone number. I printed the week’s calendar and saw we had Tuesday and Wednesday open. My boss Teresa Hull, chief of staff, called me and said Dr. Henry wanted us to help them. She said usually Second Baptist opens their Woodway campus for services of a slain law enforcement officer, but due to the religious component (the deputy was a member of the Sikh religion), these ceremonies needed to be in a neutral site. Teresa felt our community needed help to begin the healing process and because the Deputy and his family lived and attended school in the CFISD community.
I started making my lists and felt, having watched the Deputy Goforth services on television in 2015, I had a basic understanding of the facility support needed for the Sheriff department ceremonies but knew I had no background of what a Sikh service required. I hoped AV crew person Anila Hardin might be able to help and asked her to meet with me. A huge sigh of relief came when she said her dad is a Sikh. We had a few minutes together prior to the Sheriff’s call to get a general overview. The Sheriff’s chaplain called at 3:09pm and laid out the basic needs of the law enforcement traditional End of Watch ceremonies. He was with the Deputy’s family during the call and served as the go between to answer my questions fed from Anila. The Sherriff and family wanted to see the facility and said they could be here by 4pm. I asked Anila to stay past her shift time and join the meeting. Devon was on his way in to work the game and homecoming dance so I knew he could get the layout started immediately. I called Sean, who lives up the street, to see if he was available to talk about the AV portion. We met with Deputy Dhaliwal’s brother Paul, relatives and friends, Chaplin Bowdoin and other officers. Knowing this was our one chance to learn what the family needed, we asked questions based on the area of responsibility. I left Saturday night after talking to Brent about the staffing and security needs and Nicole for catering and watering stations for guests. Devon placed a call into Second Baptist to find out any tips or suggestions from their previous experiences working with the Sheriff’s department. I scheduled a Berry Center team meeting on Monday at 7am to get everyone up to speed. At 8am we would meet with the Sheriff department and CFPD and start making decisions.
Over 60 representatives from various agencies arrived for the 8am meeting including the Cy-Fair Fire Department and EMS, CFISD emergency management department and transportation department, a SWAT team, Sheriff’s media department with KHOU, honor guard, helicopter pilots and high-ranking members of the Sheriff’s department.
The Sheriff’s media team and KHOU decided to meet with Sean and Mike Mallette separately to discuss the broadcast/media portion and left the room. Brent, Devon, Eric, CFPD command staff and I stayed with the big group. Devon presented a layout of the arena and lots and reviewed the details from Second Baptist. We proposed the closing services be held in Lot A or B since our area from the doors to the driveway is smaller than 2nd Baptist and we wanted to make sure everyone could see. Captain Diaz wanted the ceremony on the entrance 2 plaza and assured me that they would make it work. HAZMAT vehicles would stage at Lone Star College. Fire trucks in Lot G. SWAT teams would be on the roof. There were 3 teacher trainings scheduled for that day that needed parking and access to the conference center and restrooms. I took a chance and asked Teresa to allow us to reschedule them. She said yes which resulted in applause from the group…one less detail to work around. For two hours we went down our lists checking off who was going where and who was responsible for what function or task. Plans that would be in direct conflict with the wants of the family were adjusted. We ended with a facility tour and agreed the facility would be set up for a walk thru at 2pm the following day.
When we began the set up on Tuesday morning, I realized we had accomplished in 2 days what we normally take 3-6 weeks to do. Rather than collaborating and working through problems as a team, departments were assigned tasks or roles and worked independently to resolve with great speed, creativity, flexibility and accuracy.
On Wednesday after the coffin, family and guests exited the facility to the Entrance 2 plaza, I decided to watch the closing ceremonies at the top of the East grand staircase. Taps were being played as I walked out the door. At that point my emotions finally took over and I began to cry and decided to go back to my office. I was sitting in my office watching the broadcast on television when I was struck by the realization and unbelievable pride that what the world was watching was fully directed, engineered, operated and produced by our AV department headed by Assistant Director – Production Services, Sean Ramsey and Technical Manager, Mike Mallette and supported by staff members Ben Macalalad, James Ness, Larry Brehm, Terri Batcheller, Daniel Life, Anila Harden, Mark Bergeron, Andy Klarer, Alex Carias, Andre Laquindanum and Elias Flores. The broadcast team also included 7 camera operators and various technical crew. Working with a tentative outline of speakers and music, they relied on their live broadcast knowledge and state of the art equipment to capture every breathtaking- moment. We delivered our coverage to the local CBS affiliate who served as the host to the other stations around the world.
We all know each Berry Center team member job is essential to support our vision to provide quality service that exceeds the needs of all. What you did to support the funeral services was the most loving selfless gift you can ever give to a family and community in need. Please accept my sincerest appreciation and, once again THANK YOU.
6,367 law enforcement member and guests traveled from all over the U.S., Canada, and Asia to be present for the services to celebrate the spirit that Deputy Dhaliwal leaves behind. He will be profoundly missed in our community.