Last night a gunman identified as Micah Xavier Johnson, attacked and killed five Dallas police officers during a peaceful protest. He wounded another 7 officers and 2 civilians. This morning three suspects are in custody, and Johnson is dead after a shootout with Dallas Police. The DPD (Dallas Police Department) and DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) police did their duty with aplomb during the ambush which has been described by one witness, a veteran, as “strategic.” Watching the video of one of the shooter, I am left with the impression that he had acquired some sort of training. Reports are now coming in that the Johnson was a veteran – a carpentry and masonry specialist in the US Army reserves. Not exactly combat arms, but still. Johnson also said during negotiations during the standoff that he was not affiliated with any groups and that he was acting alone – so this does NOT appear to be an action affiliated with, or organized by, or inspired by any terror organization – at this point.
Today, after a massive bomb sweep turning up nothing – in spite of threats by one of the gunmen – a large portion of Dallas is blocked off as a crime scene. This gunman reportedly told police that, “The end is coming” – we have yet to understand what that means. Beyond this, we know little about the suspects. I am loathe to call this a terrorist act, but it certainly looks like a terrorist act (i.e. the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims) given that Johnson’s statements show he was politically motivated.
Let us be very clear, an attack on the police is an attack on us all. HOWEVER, police brutality and overreach, and the very questionable police actions this week that prompted these protests, and the apparent retaliation by Johnson, is also an attack on us all. One does not negate the others. This attack does not change the fact that we have a problem in this country with violence, both unsanctioned, and sanctioned. An attack on a peaceful protest, under the protection of officers of the law, is not a justification to end the conversation about the role of law enforcement, and state sanctioned force in this country. I have spoken numerous times against the general militarization of the police, I will not do so again here – I believe that my position is clear.
As to whether we should support the cops or the protesters. I see no contradiction in supporting BOTH. All good cops deserve our support. All peaceful and law abiding protesters are exercising their RIGHTS, and anyone legitimately exercising their rights deserves our support.
There is however, a difference between being an apologist for bad policing and supporting good police who do their jobs. Dallas is an example of good, heroic police doing their jobs. Those who would demonize all police for the actions of a few are no better from those who would demonize all Muslims for the actions of a few, or all Christians, or all black people, or all… you get the idea. It is bigotry.
At the same time, the phrase is not, “One Bad Apple Spoils a Few,” it is “One Bad Apple Spoils the Batch.” Meaning that even a single bad cop – someone who is brutal, a Martinet, incompetent, racist, or simply ill suited for the job – has no business being a cop, and police forces must shed these low hanging fruit, or risk rotting from within.
The U.S. police force has many of the same problems as the U.S. Military, which have been cracking down for several years now on white supremacists, and other gangbangers enlisting for military training. Police forces must do the same.
Fortunately, according to studies, considerably fewer than 1% of police officers engage in conduct that is criminal, or are fired for poor job performance, or drug use. Unfortunately, the National Police Misconduct Reporting Project run by the Cato Institute reports detailed statistics on police misconduct that brings into question if that number is accurate, or if there is a larger percentage of officers that are being protected by police culture. It is a huge topic, one I won’t go into here. But it is a question that must be answered.
Additionally, anti-state violence movements such as Black Lives Matter MUST be vigilant to ensure that radical elements do not gain control of their ranks. Unfortunately, real information concerning these radicals is hard to come by not having been effectively studied yet. However, most social movements suffer from this sort of infiltration. The “One Bad Apple” analogy fits here as well, and was experienced in the Ferguson riots. It would be wise for movement leaders to take note. HOWEVER, I also keep seeing how the Black Lives Matter protest is anti-police. Only an apologist would make that remark. This is someone who, probably willfully, chooses not to recognize the problem that does exist in this country with the acceptance, tacitly at least, of the use of deadly force by police for the smallest infraction.
That said, confidence, particularly among minorities, in the police is at an all time low according to the president of the U.S. Police Federation. Using the Dallas incident to deflect concerns related to state violence would be a mistake. U.S. police officers killed 1,100 people in 2015, as compared to 1 in Great Britain, 0 in Germany, and even 13 in China (with a population 4.5 times that of the U.S.). Not recognizing that as a symptom of the problem we have in the United States would be imprudent.
This is all symptomatic of a larger problem. A problem of the escalation of extreme forms of violence in the U.S. In spite of the overall decrease in violent crime, from 1966 to 2012, nearly a third of the world’s mass shootings took place in the U.S. In 2016 alone, so far, there have been 136 mass shootings in the first 164 days of the year (the FBI definition of a mass shooting is a single incident in which four or more people were shot, Congress defines it as 3 or more people killed – a disparity that seems silly to me).
Since LAST NIGHT (7 July, 2016) there were three more mass shootings besides Dallas – one in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, another in Bristol, Tennessee, and one in Shreveport, Louisiana.
This year alone, 339 people have died, as of last night. 837 have been injured.
State sanctioned violence is equally a problem though. Police this year, as of July 5, 2016, have shot and killed between 488-580 people this year (depending on who’s data you use). Compare this to the countries listed above and by some stats, U.S. police shoot and kill at 70 times the rate of other first world nations.
I am confident in saying that if you do not think there is a problem, then you are a damned fool.
To quote Chief Brown of Dallas PD: “All I know is that this must stop, this divisiveness between our police and our citizens.” The chief is absolutely right. Those who demonize all the police because of the behavior of a few are wrong, and create divisiveness. Those who demonize all the protesters because of the radical elements that have inserted themselves into the movement (and have done since movements began) are wrong, and create divisiveness. Those who are police or leaders of movements who tolerate either are wrong, and create divisiveness. We must also recognize that divisiveness – the causing of disagreements to create separation with the goal of blocking solutions– and disagreements – an argument caused by people having different positions about something – are NOT the same thing.
Cops need to enforce the laws. And when they do wrong, protesters NEED to protest their actions. This is a nation founded on protests against government wrongdoing – The Boston Massacre, the Tea Party, and other organized Colonial protests were critical in the founding of the United States – I question the patriotism (and the intelligence) of those who routinely criticize protesters. That said, the protest is a tool leading to talk and our problems must be solved within a framework of communication, not a framework of violence.
I don’t have any answers. Just observations. Most of the “solutions” put forth today are simplistic, and lead us down roads we should avoid. But we cannot just shrug our shoulders and say… oh well, it’s just another day in July in Dallas….
Two side notes:
I’ve spoken out against the NRA’s “good guy with a gun” dogma before, and I will speak out against it again here. These officers were good guys and gals with guns, and five of them died, seven were injured before they were able to stop the bad guys with guns. This was 100 good guys and gals with guns against 1 bad guy. The police took 12% casualties, 14% if you count the civilians. A casualty rate that in this day and age would get any general fired.
Another interesting little stat – according to the FBI and the BLS, unarmed citizens end active shooter incidents at a rate 4x that of armed citizens – 13.1% v. 3.1%.
And finally, there is a certain type out there today claiming that this is all somehow the President’s fault, that police deaths are up. They are lying to you. In fact, according to the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial Fund police deaths in the line of duty are lower than they’ve been since the Ford Administration, and the past two years have seen fewer deaths since 1949. (http://www.nleomf.org/facts/officer-fatalities-data/year.html).
That is not to dismiss the tragedy of any officer dying in the line of duty, but it is to call out people who spread falsehoods to stir up the head count. IF you have to lie to make your point, you have no point to make.