The world changed for me after Dallas. Honestly, it changed before that, but if there were any questions in my mind, they were all answered AFTER DALLAS. Dallas made it clear that I wore a target to work every day–and even when I was off–simply because I’m a cop.
I’ve been a cop in one uniform or another for 35 years. I always knew some folks didn’t like police. I knew there were “Police Fighters”, guys that just liked to fight police as a badge of honor. The funny thing was many of them were almost OK guys Sunday through Thursday; but Fridays and Saturdays were their days to drink too much and get loud and maybe go to jail. It was almost a rite of passage for them and for “us”. Young recruits would leave the academy for a few weeks of “Field Training”, then come back to the academy for a final week of training before graduation. That’s when we’d all gather around and look to see which of us got our badge “bent” by our FTOs (Field Training Officers) for being in a fight. The actual badge bending was frowned upon by bosses, but I think they were looking to see who came back after seeing the elephant and who decided they’d be happier working elsewhere.
That was different. Yeah, back then cops got shot, but they weren’t “TARGETED” just because they were cops. It was the nature of the job; you roll up on a “standard” call and walk into a robbery. One of the “heroes” in my department got shot on that kind of call, and still managed to hold onto the bad guy until his back up arrived. He wasn’t “targeted” because he was a cop; he was shot because the bad guy didn’t want to go to jail. That’s a huge difference, and it’s a risk cops have known about and accepted for as long as they pinned on badges.
I remember the riots of the 1960’s. I lived in Baltimore City. I remember cops standing guard outside Police Headquarters armed with Thompson SMGs. I remember the National Guard being shot at, and I remember the 82nd Airborne responding with loaded M60 LMGs in “Gun Jeeps”. I also remember things getting better; not just race relations, but also Police and Community relations. Police chiefs tried something called “Community Policing”. They sent officers out to make friends in the neighborhoods. They assigned police officers to work at PAL (Police Athletic League) Centers as babysitters in uniform. They instituted the “Broken Window” theory of policing. It’s the theory that one broken window causes more broken windows because of neighborhood apathy. It turned cops into social workers, instead of law enforcing warriors. Suddenly, “Shop with a Cop” was an institution in police departments with fully staffed positions, pulling from the patrol division for staff.
Somewhere along the way “Gentle Giants” and “Angel-Faced Teens” who were “turning their lives around” or “going to support their families with their sports scholarships” were attacking police. Somewhere along the way, “He didn’t do nuthin’- He just shot a cop” became socially acceptable. Somewhere along the way, cops being cops–AND cops defending themselves–became a death sentence. Somewhere along the way, politicians and DAs (who want to be politicians) bought into the “targeting” of police, and police were faced with a three front war. They had the usual bad guys on the street, newly empowered by hatred for anything wearing a badge. They had the politicians stirring up their constituents, AND they had the police administrators–who became lap dogs for politicians in order to keep their jobs and golden parachutes–“tying the hands” of cops. They changed the policy of hiring the best candidates to hiring applicants that “look like the community they serve”. They instituted “diversity classes” so cops would understand the community, instead of enforcing the laws.
None of this means there aren’t bad cops. Yes sadly, there are bad cops, and there are cops that have done bad things. I cannot and will not defend them. They make me look bad; just like your drunken brother-in-law who gets rowdy at every holiday party and always manages to slip out to urinate on your neighbor’s lawn. Good cops don’t like bad cops. Good cops don’t hang out with bad cops. Good cops don’t tolerate bad cops; and yes, good cops “narc” on bad cops. None of this means it is OK to be a racists-it’s NOT.
Yep, Black Lives Matter. So do White lives and Brown lives, Yellow lives and purple lives—and so the “F” do BLUE LIVES! Dallas was a game changer for cops. Cops had been watching the spread of terrorism and knew it was coming, but few expected the HELL unleashed at Dallas–only to see it repeated days later in Baton Rouge–just because they were cops. Dallas suddenly said there was open season on cops, but the politicians and administrators still held to their positions of support for the shooters’ organizations. Sure some made claims of being behind the police, but few have called the shooters AND their groups terrorists. Quite the contrary, some say they want to find common ground. WTF? Common ground with murderous snipers who targeted cops just because they were cops? Common ground with groups that support the killing of police? One mayor ordered her police to allow the children “room to destroy” and set off a week of riots that burned the city. One district attorney did her own form of police targeting, charging six officers with murder for the death of an arrestee who was injured when he threw himself around in a Paddy Wagon (to avoid the detention center by going to the hospital instead, a common ploy of experienced criminals). ONE politician even invited the Mothers of the Movement to headline with her at her party’s presidential convention.
So After Dallas means less “Officer Friendly” and more “Back the F up”. After Dallas means your call for the theft of the bike you left in your unlocked shed, that you last checked 3 months ago, might take a couple of hours for the report because, After Dallas means two officers go to every call. After Dallas means you might see regular patrol officers forgetting their shiny shoes in favor of combat boots. After Dallas means cops are wearing armor to stop rifle rounds, and they might look more like soldiers on patrol instead of Norman Rockwell’s painting of a cop sharing ice cream with Opie Taylor. After Dallas means cops are packing heavy and the smart ones are practicing more often, practicing “head shots”, and practicing at longer ranges. After Dallas means cops are just a little bit scared and a whole lot more cautious.
No, it doesn’t mean cops have an “itchy trigger finger”. No, it doesn’t mean cops are on the hunt. They’ve always been hunters; that’s what you pay them to do. But it does mean they’ve taken off the orange vest. It means they won’t wait to be hit with the rock, but will shoot when you wind up for the pitch. And it means they’ll sleep just fine afterwards. It means they’ll kiss their wives with a little more passion in the morning and they’ll hug them longer when they come home at night.
Yeah Dallas changed a lot.