DALLAS, JAN. 25 -- The death Saturday of white police officer John Chase, shot three times in the face by a black vagrant as onlookers shouted "Shoot him!" is deepening divisions between a police force accused of racism and a City Council accused of fostering public hatred of the police.

Leaders of the Dallas Police Association met today to discuss asking Mayor Annette Strauss and three minority council members -- Diane Ragsdale and Al Lipscomb, both black, and Al Gonzalez, a Hispanic -- not to attend Tuesday's memorial service for Chase, 25. The four have criticized the department for what they describe as excessive force against minorities.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people rallied downtown in support of the police, and authorities said they would try to identify and prosecute spectators who encouraged the shooting.

"It's good to see this support in the community for a change. Most of the time we only see the negative side," said officer Thomas Cicio, observing the crowd of about 400 marchers. One of their signs said, "Police Are People, Too."

Police officials said Chase was preparing to write a traffic ticket at a downtown intersection when a pedestrian began arguing with him, then wrestled away his gun.

"The officer was saying, 'Don't shoot me! I'll help you whatever way I can!' But the guy shot him in the head," witness Melitha Johnson said.

Chase's assailant, Carl Dudley Williams, was slain moments later in a shootout with other officers. Williams, 34, had a history of arrests and mental illness.

Police Chief Billy Prince blamed the council members' continuing allegations of racism by the Dallas police force for fostering a negative attitude toward the police.

"Crowd psychology is a strange thing," Prince said. "I think the atmosphere that has been created in Dallas toward constant bashing of the department, and constant criticism certainly creates an atmosphere and mood that would contribute to something like that."

Strauss and the minority council members have spearheaded investigations into Dallas' high percentage of shootings of minority persons by police officers. The probes include a congressional investigation into last year's separate fatal shootings by police of two elderly black residents.

Police officers said they view the council's attitude as a license for criminals to declare open season on officers.

"The council's constant downgrading of our abilities has reached the point where I don't know why anyone would want to work here," said Cpl. Ed Moore, an eight-year department veteran.

Strauss said Chase's shooting was related not to racial issues but to society's inability to care for the mentally ill.

"We had a person {Williams} who had a history of mental problems, who had been in and out of jail 10 or more times," Strauss said. "I think therein lies the problem of what happened."

Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, who is black, discounted the onlookers' attitude as atypical. "I think it's totally irresponsible on the part of the chief to get in that emotionalism . . . and make it look like {Williams and the crowd} represent the entire minority community," Price said. "This is the time for leadership."

All City Council members except Ragsdale and Lipscomb attended a morning news conference downtown at which Gonzalez pleaded for unity. "We've all made some mistakes . . . but we're going to do something about those mistakes," Gonzalez said. "We're not going to let those criminals divide us."