Dallas police had taken steps to mend rift with minorities

EMILY SCHMALL | 7/17/2016, 9:40 p.m.
After a peaceful protest in Downtown Dallas that would have otherwise taken place with little notice – a protest sparked ...
Police Chief David Brown and Mayor Mike Rawlings, rear, talk with the media during a news conference, Friday. Eric Gay

(AP) – After a peaceful protest in Downtown Dallas that would have otherwise taken place with little notice – a protest sparked by the police-involved shootings of two Black men within a 24-hour period – a 25-year-old African American Army veteran opened fire on Dallas police in an act of vengeance against White officers, attacking a department whose chief has been lauded across the country for taking bold steps to root out bad cops and repair relations with minorities.

Police Chief David Brown, a Black man who pushed through the reforms despite resistance from the rank-and-file, explained at a news conference Monday that crime, police shootings and excessive-force complaints against the department have all dropped dramatically on his watch.

“This is the best department in the country, and I’m proud to be associated with the men and women of the Dallas Police Department,” he said.

Micah Xavier Johnson, who served in Afghanistan, killed five officers in a sniper attack Thursday as payback for the fatal police shootings of Black men last week in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and suburban Minneapolis. The attack ended with Johnson blown up by a bomb delivered by a police robot.

“Dallas PD is paying the price for problems elsewhere around our country,” said Mohamed Elibiary, a Texas-based Department of Homeland Security adviser.

Carlyle Holder, president of the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, had been holding up the Dallas Police Department as an example of a law enforcement agency effectively addressing the problem of racial disparities in police work.

“That’s what made the killing of those officers so much harder to take,” he said.

In all, the city reported that five officers were killed and nine officers were wounded. Of those wounded, four were DPD officers, three were DART officers and two were Dallas County Community College officers at El Centro. There was also a report of two marchers wounded during the shooting.

During a news conference Monday, a reporter reminded Brown about a previous statement in which he stated he was afraid of police officers when he was growing up, then asked how he overcame that fear. Brown explained that when he returned home from attending the University of Texas at Austin during the summer in the early 1980s, he found that some of his friends became involved in the crack epidemic.

“It broke my heart and it changed what I wanted to do in college,” he continued. “I actually left college in the first semester of my senior year to come back and apply for the Dallas Police Department to do something about what I was seeing in my neighborhood.”

He was then asked how he reconciled being Black and being a police officer.

“I’ve been Black a long time,” Brown told reporters. “It’s not so much of a bridge for me. It’s everyday living. I grew up here in Texas, third-generation Dallasite. It’s my normal to live in this society that has a long history of racial strife. We’re in a much better place than when I was a young man here, but we have more work to do, particularly in my profession.”