In the words of a trauma surgeon on the triage and treatment of officers hit by a gunman in Dallas.
And Dallas was the first of three nearly back to back police targeted assassinations in the past week. It describes yet another national nightmare.
Adding to what Barbara Kay reports well here, I have to commend Dallas police chief David Brown for telling the press and the world that he believes officers in his city and nationwide are under too much strain. It deserves more focus of attention.
“We’re asking cops to do too much in this country,” Brown said at a briefing Monday. “We are. Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the cops handle it. … Schools fail, let’s give it to the cops. … That’s too much to ask. Policing was never meant to solve all those problems.”
As Brown spoke in Dallas, five officers had been killed, nine others injured from the gunfire.
Brown said he and other officers were frustrated by what police are being forced to do while lawmakers fail to seek solutions to the country’s violence…
He also said that if he were confronted with the same perceived problems that have prompted demonstrations across the country, “I probably wouldn’t protest or complain. I’d get involved and do something about it, by becoming part of the solution.”
Brown later leveled a direct challenge to demonstrators: “We’re hiring. Get off that protest line and put an application in.”
Over these tremendously difficult days, I watched and heard Gregory Thomas, President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives on CNN and asked him to be my guest on radio. Our brief conversation was helpful in explaining what community policing is, and our role in it. Homeland Security has the well known and well worn saying ‘when you see something, say something.’ Too many people don’t, maybe mostly because of fear or political correctness. But after so many terrorist attacks, DHS has repeated lately that they certainly want us to, and police do as well. If we see suspicious characters and activity, or worse, and say nothing, we’re part of the problem.
We own this if we don’t speak up and don’t engage in community awareness and involvement. The officer patrolling your neighborhood represents the entire police force to you, just as the citizens he or she encounters there represent your community to the police force. Our failed community structures, broken families, and fatherless homes, leave the police strained with more of the consequences of social dysfunction and personal actions unmoored from choices taught with moral authority in the home and in churches. Black pastors have told this story for decades, more so in the past several years.
In the past several days, we’ve been rocked by targeted police assassinations, another one on Tuesday in Kansas City, Kansas. “Right now we just need to be in prayer”, for the officer’s family and the police department, said Mayor Mark Holland. “Not only in this department but everywhere in our country. And prayer for our communities. Our communities are broken right now. “My encouragement is we not go down a path of fear and conclusions and hatred, but we go down a path of thoughtful, prayerful reflection about what we can all do to make our communities safer.”
Something I wrote here after the Ferguson events came back to me while hearing authorities respond to these shootings of the past week.
Dr. Ben Carson said that what changed him from an angry and aggressive young man was that his mother made him read books, and he read about people of accomplishment. “What I came to understand is that the person who has the most to do with what happens to you in life, it’s you. It’s not the environment and it’s not somebody else. […] we must re-instill the can-do attitude in America not the ‘what can you do for me’ what ‘have you done for me’ attitude,” Carson said.
He challenged Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton to declare, calmly, what solution they’re looking for, what they want to happen.
…Sharpton changed course to address his black listeners directly. “We’ve got to be straight up in our community, too,” he said. “We have to be outraged at a 9-year-old girl killed in Chicago. We have got to be outraged by our disrespect for each other, our disregard for each other, our killing and shooting and running around gun-toting each other, so that they’re justified in trying to come at us because some of us act like the definition of blackness is how low you can go.”
“Blackness has never been about being a gangster or a thug,” Sharpton continued. “Blackness was, no matter how low we was pushed down, we rose up anyhow.”
Sharpton went on to describe blacks working to overcome discrimination, to build black colleges, to establish black churches, to succeed in life. “We never surrendered,” Sharpton said. “We never gave up. And now we get to the 21st century, we get to where we’ve got some positions of power.
Many are in the role of Police Chief.
This poignant account by Dallas Police chief David Brown has a power unto itself, and ended with this account of yet another funeral.
In front of the lectern sat families of the dead. Several wrapped their arms around young children and others swallowed back tears as emotional tributes were delivered by fellow police officers.
“My partner goes home before I do,” said Jaime Castro, the partner of Lorne Ahrens. “I know you’re listening, brother. And I want you to know that I was there outside the window by your side to see you take your final breath. You weren’t alone. I had your back, as you always had ours.
Which gets to the power of Commander in Chief. In an open letter to the nation’s law enforcement officers on Tuesday, President Obama, finally, issued a message of support for police under siege in a national crisis. He mourned the loss of life among the men and women in blue, thanked them for their service in the face of danger, and called for national unity.
“Every day, you confront danger so it does not find our families, carry burdens so they do not fall to us, and courageously meet test after test to keep us safe. Like Dallas officer Lorne Ahrens, who bought dinner for a homeless man the night before he died, you perform good deeds beyond the call of duty and out of the spotlight. Time and again, you make the split-second decisions that could mean life or death for you and many others in harm’s way. You endure the tense minutes and long hours over lifetimes of service.
“Every day, you accept this responsibility and you see your colleagues do their difficult, dangerous jobs with equal valor. I want you to know that the American people see it, too. We recognize it, we respect it, we appreciate it, and we depend on you. And just as your tight-knit law enforcement family feels the recent losses to your core, our Nation grieves alongside you. Any attack on police is an unjustified attack on all of us. …
“Even when some protest you, you protect them. What is more professional than that? What is more patriotic? What is a prouder example of our most basic freedoms—to speech, to assembly, to life, and to liberty? And at the end of the day, you have a right to go home to your family, just like anybody else.”‘
Obama finally acknowledged that law enforcement officers need backing, with both resources and “our full-throated support,” to do their jobs. And he said law enforcement shouldn’t be held responsible for solving “issues we refuse to address as a society.”
That was huge, for this president.
As was this call for unity:
“Some are trying to use this moment to divide police and the communities you serve. I reject those efforts, for they do not reflect the reality of our Nation.”
His letter ends:
“We are at our best when we recognize our common humanity, set an example for our children of trust and responsibility, and honor the sacrifices of our bravest by coming together to be better.
“Thank you for your courageous service. We have your backs.”
It’s about time. This is what our law enforcement community needs to hear from us. Because they certainly have ours, at all costs.