An Op-Ed Article Written by Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell for Distribution by Daily Newspapers for the Los Angeles News Group
We Leave Our Families to Protect Yours
Not since September 11, 2001, have so many police officers been killed in a single incident. However, unlike 9/11, the terrorist in the attack on Thursday, July 7th, specifically targeted police officers in the act of protecting the public, and executed them in cold blood.
This is a national tragedy.
The assault on the Dallas Police and assaults on officers elsewhere in our country are symptoms of a new and troubling era for Americans. It is a time when going out for dinner today, includes noting the location of the fire exit, but also a place to hide in the event of an active shooter. There is a disturbing nexus between our most serious social ills –mental illness, drug addiction, and weapons in the wrong hands that are conspiring to challenge one of our nation’s greatest strengths; our ability to stand together, to reject evil, and through our difficulties, find a better way.
I’ve watched the graphic scenes unfold on live television, spoken to my deputies and seen the uncertainty, the questions in their eyes, wondering of how they can assure their families that going to work will not make them a target of hate. No doubt, in our days of dialogue post-Ferguson, Missouri, law enforcement families are not the only ones who question what keeps them safe. I have seen the grief of the families who demand justice and righteous, impartial investigations into an officer involved shooting that claimed the life of their loved one.
Trust building between law enforcement and the communities we serve is hard work. It is complicated and at times, seemingly elusive, but it is also very much underway at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Building relationships, continuing constructive dialogue matters and, frankly, it works. We also understand that credible oversight of police has to be a factor in building that trust. We as individuals and as law enforcement are not perfect, but we are human. We are engaged, committed to intensive training, oversight, best practices and communication with the communities we serve, and, therefore we see hope.
Let us not seek vengeance or succumb to fear, or use our words as weapons or idols of self-promotion on cable news. What we say matters, but what we do together, for one another, matters more.
The protestors, whom the Dallas Police were protecting, vividly remember when the shots rang out, the officers ran toward the danger. One protestor, a mother of two and a military reservist, pledged to attend the funerals of the slain officers, stating the police were there for them, and so “we will be there for you.”
Law enforcement has a responsibility to hold ourselves accountable for our actions to the letter of the law, but we ask communities to continue to engage with us, work with us to assist troubled individuals who may also pose a threat.
To all the Dallas families who have lost loved ones, I and the men and women of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department offer our deepest condolences.
-Former LA County Sheriff, Jim McDonnell