Attackers’ Plans Were Based
on Police Dedication to Community & Duty
Last weekend’s massacre in Baton Rouge should serve as the catalyst that changes America’s discussion about guns, law enforcement and violence. First, however, all interests must agree not just to debate but also to listen honestly.
A breakdown in trust underlies incidents of police violence this summer, both police as violent actor and as victim. But that breakdown is nowhere near as bad as it’s been portrayed. The ambush that left three officers dead and three wounded in Baton Rouge came a scant 10 days after an even deadlier attack on police in Dallas.
In both incidents, the attackers used reliance upon police commitment, and knowledge of police tactics, to create killing grounds – concentration points where police converge on a threat and are thus vulnerable to someone who can anticipate and exploit cowardly a response.
From a tactical perspective, these ambushes worked because the shooters knew that officers would run directly into the danger. That says so much about America’s police and their commitment to their communities. Dallas, in particular, showed the extent to which officers would knowingly make themselves vulnerable. One mother thanked officers for saving her and her sons by standing between them and the shooter.
In Baton Rouge, the “Sovereign Citizen” attacker provocatively walked down the street with a gun and might even have called police to report “a man with a rifle” in order to draw officers out. To their credit, officers rushed to intervene in what on the surface appeared to be someone putting the public at risk.
Officers’ very dedication to their communities has thus become a liability, a weakness that killers use to lure them to their deaths. Does that mean that they should stop running towards the danger?
Of course not. The very idea goes against everything they have been trained to do.
Already America has started to see some reaching across the chasm that until just a few weeks ago had separated the public and the police. A moving video from Dallas that showed Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter protesters crossing the street, hugging one another and joining forces.
That sort of small demonstration that we are all in this together could become the foundation of a respectful dialogue and real progress.
There have been other signs of people finally coming together. Activists around the country wear the Dallas police insignia alongside the names of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The Baton Rouge insignia surely will soon join them.
Meanwhile, Black Lives Matter leader DeRay Mckesson said on Sunday, “My prayers are with the victims of all violence.” All lives.
America is at its strongest when people unite after attacks on the things we hold most dear. Violence backfired in Dallas and Baton Rouge.
Americans don’t want dead cops; they want responsive cops. Protesters don’t want police to stop protecting them; they want to trust that police will protect them.
Cops can accept criticism, but they also want to hear and feel that their sacrifices – from everyday kindness and dedication, to running towards the gunfire – are recognized and appreciated.
Yet those simple acknowledgments have been lost on both sides as the loudest protesters play to the media with overblown rhetoric. Is it any wonder that shooters have found reason to kill police when so much of what they see in the press is that police are racist killers?
Before things can change, we must move beyond simplifications and step outside our echo chambers where we can genuinely listen to what the other side has to say.