‘When law enforcement shuts down … we’re going to see what real fear and real terror are’
Thursday’s killing of five Dallas police officers and the wounding of seven others was the inevitable result of an escalation of a war against cops that has raged since protests in Ferguson, Missouri, two years ago, law enforcement advocates said Friday.
Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, laid blame squarely at the feet of President Obama and the Black Lives Matter movement.
“It’s absolutely cold-blooded murder. It’s intentional. And Black Lives Matter and some other groups are directly responsible.”
“It’s absolutely cold-blooded murder. It’s intentional. And Black Lives Matter and some other groups are directly responsible,” he said. “The failure of the president and the attorney general and the Department of Justice to confront violence before it happens is obscene.”
Thursday’s mayhem erupted when a sniper, later identified as Micah X. Johnson, ambushed police at a demonstration in Dallas. In addition to the officers, two civilians suffered wounds. Police Chief David Brown told reporters Friday that the sniper — whom officers ultimately killed — told negotiators that he was not part of any organization but wanted to kill white people and white officers in response to a string of recent officer-involved shootings.
It is believed to be the deadliest attack on police in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack in New York.
Although the shooter apparently acted without direction from an organization, Johnson said the anti-police environment created by Black Lives Matter played a role.
“You can’t say it’s a peaceful protest when you run around shouting, ‘What do we want? Dead cops,’ and then act surprised,” he said.
Speaking in Warsaw, President Obama offered condolences, adding, “There is no possible justification for these kinds of attacks or any violence against law enforcement.”
To the president’s critics, it is too little, too late.
“I’m not having any of it,” St. Louis Police Officers Association Executive Director Jeff Roorda said on “The Laura Ingraham Show” on Friday. “He can keep his platitudes to himself. We’re not interested in hearing that in law enforcement after the way he’s conducted himself as president.”
Roorda, author of “The War on Police,” said Thursday’s massacre should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched how the press and protester leaders have been “fomenting violence for the last two years or more.”
He added, “There’s a burden placed on a particular segment of America, but it’s not on blacks — it’s on cops.”
The Dallas killings come at a point when the deaths of law enforcement officers in the line of duty are near an all-time low. But law enforcement advocates said they cannot remember a time when police have been specifically targeted as frequently because of their profession. Mike Cutler, a former Immigration and Naturalization Services officer in New York who testified to the 9/11 commission, said America is rapidly becoming “factionalized as a country,” with people increasingly identifying as members of groups.
“Goodness gracious, what happened to being American? The notion that everyone belongs in a cubbyhole,” he said. “We’re pitting groups of Americans against each other … The president sets the tone, and the president sits up there and turns everything literally into black and white.”
Cutler said police officers, like members of any profession, work first to provide for their families. He said there is a natural tendency to pull back from proactive policing when officers face second-guessing of split-second decisions combined with the normal dangers of the job. Some experts have pointed to this so-called “Ferguson effect” as an explanation for rising crime rates in some large cities.
Cutler described an officer hearing a report of shots fired.
“You’re running into a gun battle,” he said. “Now all of a sudden, we’re adding to that, ‘If I return fire I could lose my job. I could lose my family.'”
Some officers might conclude it is better to wait until after the shooting is over and then erect crime scene tape, Cutler said.
“When law enforcement shuts down — and it will if this keeps up — we’re going to see what real fear and real terror are,” Roorda said.
Jim Pasco, a spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police, said Thursday’s police killings are the result of a “gradual downward spiral.” But he rejected the notion that police are pulling back.
“There is a reason why police officers are dying in these situations,” he said. “Police officers aren’t cowards. And police officers aren’t racist.”
Pasco took a long view of anti-police sentiment — both its creation and how to counter it. Poor schools, family breakdown, and economic hopelessness created the conditions for hostility against police to thrive, he said.
“There’s a generation of elected officials who have betrayed their communities,” he said. “It took generations of politicians to mess it up. It will take generations to fix.”
Eric Quarles, a criminal justice expert and former Atlanta police officer, said heightened attention on a small number of officer-involved shootings creates a skewed impression of the professionalism of cops.
“So the incidents that are covered on the news represent a very small group of things — [officers] do an exceptional job. It is one of the hardest jobs in this country,” he said. “I would say 97 percent of police officers are great police officers. There are bad apples in every profession.”
Maureen Mackey contributed to this report.