Five members of the Dallas Police Department were shot and killed in an attack Thursday night amid demonstrations protesting recent police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota.
A suspect, who was killed by police, told negotiators attempting to talk him down that he was upset about the Black Lives Matter movement and “wanted to kill white people, specifically white police officers,” Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown said in a press conference on Friday.
As BuzzFeed criminal justice reporter Albert Samaha pointed out on Friday morning, however, the Dallas Police Department does not have a reputation for the use of excessive force or police brutality. In fact, it has become something of a national model for community policing.
“Dallas PD has good reputation,” Samaha tweeted. “Excessive force complaints dropped 64% from ’09 to ’14 after ‘shift to de-escalation.'”
He continued: “In many ways, Dallas PD Chief David Brown has created a model for how departments can improve community policing and reduce police shootings. Brown believes the Dallas training has also led to a 30% decline in assaults on officers this year, and a 40% drop in shootings by police. And as excessive force complaints and police shootings declined in Dallas … so did the murder rate.”
Samaha pointed out that Brown wrote an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News offering his condolences to the family of Michael Brown after he was shot dead by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. He also used the column to reflect on how the country’s police officers can and should better serve their communities.
“We are by no means perfect; there is plenty of room for criticism,” Brown wrote. “We continue to be open to changing policies, training and community engagement. My biggest hope is that I am holding true to what I told that police recruiter: ‘I want to serve the community, sir.'”
Dallas Police Department Maj. Max Geron is a security studies scholar who wrote his master’s thesis on policing and protests at the Naval Postgraduate School. He
told The Washington Post in 2014, after the Ferguson shooting, that “the ideal police response to a protest is no response at all.”
“You want to let people exercise their constitutional rights without interference,” Geron said.
Amaha said that mentality was consistent with how the Dallas Police Department chose to monitor the Black Lives Matter protests on Thursday.
“Tonight, they were wearing normal uniforms — no helmets or heavy vests or anything like that,” he tweeted.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told reporters on Friday morning that, although the city believes in the right to protest peacefully, “we also have to believe in keeping these police officers safe. And I know I’m going to redouble my efforts on that.”
“We are one of the premier community policing cities in the country,” Rawlings added. “And this year, we had the fewest police officer related shootings than any large city in America. So we are working hard to improve, and there’s always room for improvement, but we are best in class we feel.”
Brown called for the country and the world to support the “brave men and women who do this job under great scrutiny, under great vulnerability.
Who literally risk their lives to protect our democracy. We don’t feel much support most days. Let’s not make today most days.”
Thursday night’s attack was the deadliest for US law enforcement since the September 11, 2001, terror attacks on US soil. Twelve officers and two civilians were shot. Four of the deceased officers were from the Dallas Police Department. One deceased officer was from the Dallas Area Rapid Transit agency.
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