Last night I was up until after midnight watching the tragic news from Dallas. I was saddened and angry.
I am heartbroken for the Dallas Police Department and Dallas Area Rapid Transit police departments who lost coworkers and comrades. I grieve for the wounded and the families, friends and loved ones of the officers who lost their lives.
I am also furious with our “leaders,” who don’t have the political will to address the rising hatred against police.
The Dallas shooting suspect targeted police officers for assassination just because they were wearing a badge. And on social media, some disgusting human beings actually celebrated the violence.
It’s not the first time hate-filled killers targeted police officers.
In 2014, two New York Police Department officers were ambushed and killed while sitting in their patrol car. The suspect in that case had earlier posted on social media, “I’m putting wings on pigs today.”
In March of this year, a suspect opened fire on a police station in Prince Georges County, Maryland while his brother filmed the attack. A responding officer was killed by friendly fire.
In April of this year, a state trooper was shot and killed by a person he contacted in a bus station. According the suspect’s sister, he “hated cops.”
Now, in a horrific act of calculated violence, a sniper shot and killed five police officers and wounded seven others. According to Dallas Police Chief David Brown, the suspect was intent on killing white police officers.
He hated cops.
The mood that is sweeping the country today in many ways arises from a failure of leadership at all levels. I’m not just talking about President Obama. I’m talking state and local government leaders. I’m talking about business, community and religious leaders.
There are even too few police leaders willing to address the hate-filled rhetoric being directed at the men and women who swear an oath to put your safety before their own.
After despicable acts of terror in Fort Hood, San Bernardino and Orlando, political leaders went to extraordinary lengths to explain that the acts in no way reflected the religion of Islam or all Muslims.
Yet somehow, it is acceptable to characterize an entire profession based on the actions of a few.
That is not okay. It must stop now.
It is time for our leaders to state the obvious: Complying with police officers saves lives.
From President Obama on down, the message should be: Do what the police officer says and complain or sue later.
Too many people have pulled weapons on police officers – at times with fatal consequences. Cops aren’t paranoid. As Thursday’s tragedy so painfully demonstrates, the threat is real.
Our leaders also need to openly and aggressively denounce those who use hate to fuel their messaging.
Screaming and yelling may get a 2-year-old’s attention, but it should not be the strategy we use with adults.
When hate filled speech is not addressed it becomes socially acceptable. This extremism ultimately grows within the echo chamber of social media and dominates the conversation.
The issues that exist today can only be solved when reasonable people can sit at a table and talk. And listen. And understand one another.
Lastly, our leaders don’t have to jump on a bandwagon just because everyone else does. When a person in leadership makes rash judgments they fail in their role as a leader.
Empathizing during emotionally-charged events is understandable. Passing judgement absent the facts is not.
Police departments are not perfect and neither are police officers. But violence is not the answer.
It will take strong leadership to move us forward from here. From everything I’ve seen, leadership has been woefully lacking.
Joe is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.