Words cannot express the sorrow and shock we feel for our brothers and sisters in Dallas. The officers who lost their lives will be remembered for their courage, bravery and dedicated service to the Dallas community. We join the entire country in mourning the senseless loss of their lives.
What happened in Dallas could happen in any small or large, rural or urban community across the country. The question is not why did it happen but how do we stop it from happening again. Law enforcement does not feel much support most days and perhaps that is the nature of the job, but let’s not make today one of those days. Now, more than ever, we need to rally around our brave men and women in uniform, instead of looking for ways to tear them apart.
We must keep in mind that most law enforcement officers are dedicated public servants who do an exceptional job. By way of example, a recent MSNBC article noted, “While police shootings and allegations of misconduct draw warranted scrutiny, government and independent statistics suggest those incidents do not comprise the daily work of most officers. ... In any given year, roughly 99.1 percent of officers are not accused of any misconduct, let alone convicted of it.”
When incidents occur involving questionable interactions between law enforcement and the public we must allow time for the systems and processes we have in place to properly investigate, report and take appropriate actions, rather than engaging in a dangerous rush to judgement that only serves to cause more injury, division and heartbreak. Every citizen, even law enforcement officers, must be given due process and presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
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Conversations need to start on how to improve relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve. These conversations must happen at the local, state and national level.
These conversations must address training, education and jobs within our depressed communities, thereby improving the quality of life for the citizens living within these communities and all communities across this country. These improvements would not only reduce crime but would create an environment where law enforcement and the community could find ways to improve the mutual trust and respect that is missing today.
These conversations must also address education, training, equipment, screening, manpower and community policing programs for law enforcement agencies. These tools will assist and improve the quality of policing we can provide and our communities deserve.
The time to stand shoulder to shoulder is now — not tomorrow, next week or next year.
Les Neri is president of the Pennsylvania State Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police.