FIRST DALLAS: Five police officers were ambushed and mercilessly gunned down by a killer who targeted police out of a twisted sense of retribution for the recent police shootings of black men. Ten days later in Baton Rouge, three police officers were killed in a similar attack by a gunman who was also, horribly, out for the same revenge. “The violence, the hatred, just has to stop,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said at a news conference hours after Sunday’s attack, in which three other officers were wounded. “We have to do better.”
But how? Where do we go from here? Those are the questions that confront a shell-shocked nation as it struggles to come to grips with violence that not only has created a crisis for law enforcement but also threatens to further inflame long-standing racial tensions.
The only thing certain is that there are no easy answers. Those who pretend there are — like those glibly making promises in Cleveland — only make matters worse and deepen divisions. Of course, that is part and parcel of Donald Trump’s playbook for the presidency. Witness how he has resurrected the call for a return to “law and order” that President Richard Nixon used to appeal to the fears and resentments of disaffected white Americans. Listen to him insinuate, as he did in an interview Monday morning on Fox News, that the president of the United States is actually on the side of those killing police.
In fact, President Obama could not have been clearer in his condemnation of violence against police. “Attacks on police are an attack on all of us,” he said Sunday, “and the rule of law that makes society possible.”
Support for police does not mean turning a blind eye to issues in law enforcement that have adversely affected minority communities. It is insupportable that police officers are being gunned down — and it is insupportable that blacks are unfairly targeted and wrongly killed. It is not fair to suggest that the Black Lives Matter movement that has pushed for fair policing of minorities is responsible for the actions of two evil and cowardly men. Indeed, some of the strongest condemnations of the police murders come from supporters of the movement. “Stop this killing. Stop this killing. Stop this killing,” said the aunt of Alton Sterling, the 37-year-old man shot to death by Baton Rouge police on July 5.
So what is needed? “Everyone right now, focus on words and actions that can unite this country rather than divide it further” was the call from Mr. Obama. “We need to temper our words and open our hearts, all of us.” In the aftermath of Dallas, police and community leaders met to talk about concerns and solutions. And Sunday in Wichita, what was originally planned as a protest march against police turned into a cookout after protest organizers and the police chief decided that sitting down together and breaking bread was a better way to open up communication and build trust. That’s a start.