The assassination of five Dallas law enforcement officers should shock and disgust us all. No society can be safe, no rights can be assured and no justice can be found in any place where police officers are intentionally targeted for murder.
Sadly, this vicious attack comes on the heels of yet another viral video of a police shooting. Despite that fact that they have no facts to speak of, the usual assortment of politicians, talking heads and professional troublemakers are demanding punishment. I can assure them that a few seconds of video tells us very little about what actually was going on physically and mentally on the scene.
But a lack of facts or a subjective viewing of a video never seems to stop the rush to judgment and the will of some to do away with due process for the officers. Due Process is fair treatment through a well-established and balanced process within the judicial system. If I were to conduct an investigation and attempt to arrest someone based on social media and a few seconds of grainy video without a proper and detailed investigation I would be out of a job. But that is what far too many have done to fan the flames of anti-police hatred that lead sick individuals to try to take justice into their own hands.
Following some high profile police involved shootings we hear claims that police are racist. I always considered racism the act of making negative and hateful judgments on entire groups based on their skin, beliefs or looks. Law enforcement officers represent every race, creed and religion in America and they do their jobs overwhelmingly free of bias. So when a select few people make judgments about the entire community of law enforcement officers based on nothing but the uniform they wear then there is very little in my view between a racist and them.
Every day, tens of thousands of the nation’s law enforcement officers go to work with the goal of protecting the public. The murdered Dallas officers were protecting protestors to ensure they could exercise their First Amendment rights to criticize law enforcement. Thousands of officers today alone will rescue a child from a car wreck, deliver a baby, revive a person from dying, return a possession stolen in a burglary and provide guidance to a crime victim so that they may get justice. They seek no praise but deserve to receive it.
Somewhere on TV today a politician or talking head will reference Ferguson and suggest that the police are still targeting minorities. I should send them all a copy of the 105 page US Department of Justice “Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department”. Its author is a former ACLU attorney and who currently serves as the United States Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
The report concluded that despite real problems within the Ferguson Police Department the so called “Hands up, don’t shoot” narrative that immediately emerged from the video was a farce.
The comprehensive investigation found no evidence that it ever occurred. But if there was an electric chair in Ferguson on August 9, 2014, Officer Wilson would have been strapped in and electrocuted before the sun set that day.
It is possible that is what happened in Dallas this week – that based on a video and without facts a group of lunatics decided to become executioners.
As I said after Ferguson, police work can be disturbing to watch at times. So we can’t rush to judge and then convict every police officer in the nation based on a video with no facts, no investigation and no due process within 24 hours of a serious incident.
But what is clear is that when the social media and armchair lawyer culture feeds the flames of hatred police officers become victims.
Pat Colligan is president of the New Jersey Police Benevolent Association (PBA).