Monday, July 11, 2016

Why Dallas?

There is more than one sad and tragic irony in the shooting of police officers in Dallas.   First, it came near the end of a peaceful march and rally, well organized by black activist groups and with the full cooperation of the police department.   Police officers and marchers had friendly exchanges during the march.  All had gone smoothly until shots rang out and police officers began dropping.  

Second, Dallas Police Department has become known as one of the leaders in the community policing movement that emphasizes building relationships of trust with the people in community.    This began with the appointment in 2010 of David O. Brown as Chief of Police.    In just those few years, Brown and the Dallas PD, one of the country's largest, have gained a national reputation for the success of their progressive approach to building trust, reducing the use of force, and increasing transparency. 

The lone gunman had no connection with groups that sponsored the rally and had apparently had no personal encounters with the Dallas police.  He said that he was angry about the shootings in Baton Rouge and Minnesota and that he wanted to kill white people, particularly white police officers.    It seems that he chose Dallas simply because that's where he lived, and the rally was a time when lots of police officers would be in a public space.

Chief Brown, an African-American, came up through the ranks of the DPD and has, himself, felt the sting of personal grief over a police shooting death.   Just weeks after he took the reins of the DPD, Brown's son shot another man and, in exchanging fire with a police officer, both the son and the officer were killed.

Having grown up in a black neighborhood in Dallas, having served on its police force for 30 years, and having experienced the loss of a son and a member of his police force at the same time, Chief Black is perhaps uniquely qualified to understand and to lead the department through necessary changes in this difficult time.

So, "Why Dallas?"  While it's ironic that this man's revenge was aimed at one of the least blame-worthy forces in the country, there is a positive side:   Instead of Michael Brown's death exposing the terrible wrongs in the Ferguson Police Department, attention to this tragedy has quickly spread the spirit of reform that was succeeding in Dallas.   No publicity program could have accomplished as much as quickly.


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