In an instant, the lives of the families of five Dallas police officers have been irrevocably changed, and those families now face a lifetime of coping with the loss of their loved ones. Those families will not grieve alone. Friends, brother and sister officers, a city, state, and indeed, a nation will grieve with them and stand by them in the days to come.
In the near-term, this cowardly attack on 12 of Dallas’ Finest as well as the innocent civilians victimized by this sniper, is a game changer. This ambush will result in the evolution of more cautious and deliberate patrol operations on the part of police in cities across the nation. The peaceful protest that occurred in Dallas followed on the heels of two police-involved shootings in other parts of the country. Neither of those incidents happened in Dallas, or even Texas. But the fact that Dallas was not the scene of either of the prior incidents should make every police department in this nation take notice. Law enforcement agencies in other parts of the country, such as New York and Tennessee, have already experienced assassinations prompted by hatred of police.
It will take days or more likely, weeks before investigators in Dallas have all their answers, but in the meantime, officer safety nationwide will be paramount. Make no mistake, changes are already being implemented to address the safety of all moving forward. In the wake of the Dallas attacks police in major cities such as Los Angeles and Boston have already taken steps to double their uniformed patrols. Large public gatherings such as the upcoming Republican and Democratic National Conventions will absolutely require ratcheted-up police and safety precautions.
The tenets of community policing, which are based on engaged police and community partnerships, will be adversely impacted by all of the events of this past week. It is virtually impossible to develop comfortable relationships during a crisis. Officers who are being tasked with force protection, and watching rooftops for snipers or bombers will be more likely to develop an us-vs-them mentality. This will decrease the understanding of that critical police-community partnership. The dual threats of terrorism and anti-police rhetoric will push police in the direction of taking a military stance. Prior to this attack, the Dallas Police Department had made tremendous strides in connecting with its community, under the leadership of Chief David Brown. The sad irony here is that the action of one violent and cowardly actor could have the potential to deal the Dallas Police Department a crippling blow to its community policing efforts. I do not believe Chief Brown will allow that to happen, though, and I fervently hope his police department will emerge from the other side of this tragedy with stronger community partnerships than ever.
We absolutely cannot allow the debate about police force to divide our country along racial lines. Our nation must have strong, clear and forward-thinking leadership on this issue. Men and women of good will and substance from our police agencies must be brought together to meet with the leaders of activist groups such as Black Lives Matter. Impartial academics should be employed to help collect and evaluate the facts based on real data. Over-the-top rhetoric that calls for more violence must be swiftly and decisively condemned. A common ground can be found. Police practices and training can be improved through a number of ways, such as encouraging de-escalation practices. Training for citizens about the authority of the police and the inherent dangers that come with assaulting an officer will go a long way toward constructive public education.
And finally, there is the process of redress. We have a justice system that works. The U.S. Department of Justice has aggressively pursued police wrongdoing. Yet there remain massive amounts of misinformation and inflammatory statements on the Internet and social media. The media must also be employed as a constructive partner to help deliver information accurately and in a timely fashion to help ensure the safety of all. America needs – and deserves – the truth.
We are facing all-too-real and dangerous threats from terrorists abroad who are looking to harm us because of our ideals. We cannot weaken our resolve with internal conflicts here in our own homeland. This is the time for our nation to pull together, not break apart.
Rest in peace, Officers Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Sgt. Michael Smith and Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahren.
Remain strong, Dallas.
Ed Davis has been in law enforcement for 35 years. He served as the Police Commissioner of the City of Boston from 2006 through October 2013 leading the highly successful response to the Boston Marathon bombing. Additionally he administered 6 world championship celebrations in the city. Prior to that, Davis was the Superintendent of the Lowell Police Department, a position he held for 12 years and one he rose to after starting out as a patrol officer in 1978. He comes from a police family and understands the needs of police officers and the communities they serve.
He is currently CEO of Edward Davis LLC, a business strategy and security services firm. He is a frequent adviser to countries and cities on police and global security issues.