Following the well-coordinated ambush perpetrated in Dallas last night that resulted in the deaths of five law enforcement officers, Jim Palmer, the executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association (WPPA) issued the following statement:
On behalf of Wisconsin’s law enforcement community, the WPPA extends its deepest condolences to all those affected by the despicable shootings in Dallas last night that tragically resulted in the senseless deaths of five officers. Two civilians and seven officers were also injured in the attack, including Dallas Police Officer Gretchen Rocha, a Beaver Dam native who only moved to Texas a month ago with her husband and their infant daughter. Our hearts go out to all of these victims and their loved ones.
In light of the Dallas tragedy and the controversies stemming from the recent officer-involved shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota, and elsewhere, much more is needed than thoughts and prayers alone. While the expressions of grief, disgust, and anger that are being expressed by many today in the wake of these disturbing incidents are entirely understandable, it’s critically important that we resist the temptation to propagate the rushed finger-pointing, hyperbolic vilifications, and ideological grandstanding that has overwhelmingly marked the media coverage and public dialogue on issues related to policing in America.
Nationally, the number of officers shot and killed in the line of duty so far this year is more than 40% higher than at this same point in time last year. Just in Wisconsin, the number of assaults on officers was 65% higher in 2015 than in 2008. These facts are alarming, not only because they are indisputably true, but also because they have not been a meaningful part of the broad national conversation needed to strengthen the relationship between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve. If nothing else, the current environment ought to make abundantly clear that much must be done in order for us to even begin that conversation in earnest.
There needs to be a greater and more deliberate emphasis on the dynamics that go well-beyond the sensationalism that all-too-often preoccupies the attention of the media, which often takes for granted the fact that there can be no greater calling than that of anyone who risks their life to protect the lives of others. There needs to a more-informed acknowledgment that the unconfirmed and incomplete viral videos of controversial police encounters still under investigation, while troubling, may not be wholly representative of what actually occurred. And there needs to be a recognition that it is unacceptable for anyone to paint an entire profession with the broad brush of prejudice. It must be possible for us to maintain these views while also openly and honestly exploring how to repair the systemic detrimental impacts of institutional racism wherever it exists. While all of that is difficult, to be sure, especially considering how it is far easier to resort to extreme views more likely to garner the attention of the evening news, it’s also unavoidable if we truly wish to chart a different path in our history.
Today, however, we must mourn.
May that grief not serve to undermine the invaluable service of the officers that keep our communities safe and the families that enable that devotion. May we find a way to collectively embrace one another as Americans and emerge from this tragedy as a stronger people, while not forgetting that those aspirations are largely made possible by the dedicated men and women who risk their lives on a daily basis in service to others. And may we as a nation not lose sight of the fact that in that valor, whether it goes viral or not, there is hope for a more peaceful tomorrow.