What we’ve come to know about Dallas police officers is that they provided a model of what we want law enforcement to be – professional, respectful, non-confrontational in doing their jobs.
Thursday night, before the horror began, nearly 100 officers were escorting 800 protestors on a march protesting police shootings by officers in other departments. The Dallas officers talked with the marchers, a few even stopping to pose for selfies with them.
When the shooting began the officers went into action, commanding civilians to run to safety. Then many of them ran toward the sound of gunfire. Four, mortally wounded, will never return. Neither will an officer with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit, who died in the shooting. Seven other officers were injured.
These officers represent the best of their profession; having performed their duties with honor and no heed of danger that awaited them. In that, they’re like the vast majority of police officers across our nation. They are heroes.
The sniper, who officials say apparently acted alone, was killed by a police robot after reportedly telling them he wanted to kill police officers – especially white officers.
So America reels from yet more senseless violence, the deadliest incident for law enforcement since 9/11. The ambush happened at the end of one of several marches nationwide to protest police killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castile near St. Paul, Minn.
Just three hours before the Dallas shooting, President Barack Obama said the deaths of Sterling and Castile were symptomatic of racial bias in the criminal justice system. But he also pointed out “when people say black lives matter, that doesn’t mean blue lives don’t matter” and that better police practices will make the streets safer for police officers. He said that before the Dallas incident. He was only too prescient.
So Friday, he broke away from a NATO summit in Warsaw and faced the cameras to again condemn the “vicious, calculated and despicable attack” in Dallas. “Let’s be clear,” he said, “there is no possible justification for these kinds of attacks or any violence against law enforcement.”
It is clear that trust must be rebuilt between law enforcement agencies and many of the communities they protect. Too many Americans see police officers as threats. Too many officers feel under siege. But there are communities where progress is being made, where communication between police and the residents of neighborhoods where crime is most common is a key element in stopping it. We must do all we can to encourage such interactions. The Dallas department is also considered a model of reform.
With so many guns, so many unbalanced people and so much hatred in America today, it seemed only a matter of time before something like the horror in Dallas would occur. Now that it has, we must be honest in talking about how to move forward. We can’t have another Dallas.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings spoke truth outside a prayer service Friday: His generation of leaders has let racial tensions fester for too long.
“After the events of this week, Americans … are feeling a sense of helplessness, of uncertainty and of fear,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. But, she added, “the answer is never violence. Rather the answer must be action: calm, peaceful, collaborative and determined action.”
We must honor these fallen Dallas police officers by redoubling our efforts to improve police-community relations. Without that, the grim toll of dead citizens and officers will only grow. We cannot let that happen.