The killing of five police officers in Dallas and the shooting of seven others, following on the heels of law enforcement-related deaths in Louisiana and Minnesota, might seem far away, but reaction from authorities was close to home in Centre County.
Local officers are wearing black mourning bands over their badges.
“Even though we may seem far removed, policing is a huge brotherhood that crosses all racial, ethnic and state lines. These slain officers might as well be from a neighboring department,” said Bellefonte Chief Shawn Weaver. “That is how close the brother/sisterhood is.”
That’s the same kind of sentiment expressed last year at the funeral of State College officer Bob Bradley, who died on duty. Bradley was the kind of cop who went to the funerals of fallen brothers. He did so just two months before his own death, when he went to the services for two officers killed in New York City.
“We all (police officers) are feeling grief at this moment in our own ways. Sure, we do not personally know any of these officers, however, that makes not one bit of difference. I can tell you the moods of police officers all around the country are not too good at the moment,” Weaver said.
Ferguson Township Chief Diane Conrad said her officers are also showing their solidarity with the black bands while “reflecting on the sacrifice of the targeted officers, their families and their departments.”
She acknowledged the other losses, too.
“We are, of course, also saddened of the lives lost in Louisiana and Minnesota, for their families and communities and concerned of the impact these incidents are having on communities and law enforcement-community relations across the nation,” she said.
Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller called the shooting a “huge wake-up call” about scapegoating.
“Incidents like the Minnesota and Louisiana videos are indeed troubling, and need investigated thoroughly and if they acted outside the law, they need swift punishment,” she said. “However, top leaders and the media need to stop fueling such a divisive narrative that somehow has incorporated ‘all police’ as bad guys when these events occur.”
State College Chief Tom King said that has been a concern with recent problems.
“... In response to the national events that began with the Ferguson, Mo., incident in summer 2014, our police departments and community leaders have been working diligently on building partnerships and trust between Centre County local law enforcement and people of color since December 2014,” he said.
That partnership is called Community and Campus in Unity. King said the group’s goal is to “promote a multicultural community that respects and celebrates diversity.”
CCU’s objectives are to provide education and awareness, to serve as a way to give and receive messages, to respond to “high profile or emotionally charged issues,” and recommend policies and protocols of “quality and unification.”
“We must allow the bridge to be the built so both sides, communities that are hurting and police who are overwhelmingly hardworking and scrupulously honest and dedicated, can both connect and feel appreciated, heard, valued and safe,” Parks Miller said.
Conrad acknowledged the differences between the largely white county and many of the other areas in the news.
“We have had a few interactions with persons of color newer to our community, some who have not had any previous contact with police, responding to us based on what they have seen in the media. We have done our best in those cases, on an individual basis, to engage them and work to break down any misperceptions they may have about how they can expect us to respond,” she said.
The law enforcement leaders all believe in their local colleagues.
“We are blessed to have well trained, dedicated, professional and caring police officers in Centre County. Law enforcement is a very, very, noble profession, one that I have been proud to be part of for 35 years,” King said.
“We have professional, empathetic and well trained officers here who serve our community honorably every day,” Conrad said. “We understand that trust and respect are earned and we will continue working together to advance that relationship goal.”
Dallas suspect amassed personal arsenal at suburban home
An Army veteran killed by Dallas police after the sniper slayings of five officers amassed a personal arsenal at his suburban home, including bomb-making materials, bulletproof vests, rifles, ammunition and a journal of combat tactics, authorities said Friday.
The man identified as 25-year-old Micah Johnson told authorities he was upset about the fatal police shootings of two black men earlier this week and wanted to exterminate whites, “especially white officers,” officials said.
He was killed by a robot-delivered bomb after the shootings, which marked the deadliest day for U.S. law enforcement since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In all, 12 officers were shot.
In Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee, authorities said gun-wielding civilians also shot officers in individual attacks that came after the black men were killed in Louisiana and Minnesota. Two officers were wounded, one critically.
President Barack Obama and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asked for the public’s prayers. In a letter posted online Friday, Abbott said “every life matters” and urged Texans to come together.
The Associated Press