Our View: Handle police killings with Feds
The hateful, reckless and evil mass murder of five police officers in Dallas last week was a crime committed against every single one of us, regardless of geography, political view, race or social status.
That having been said, the fact that this crime specifically affects one group of people in our community above others is also inescapable.
The loss of these five heroes is most acutely felt by the men and women in the Bayou Region who place themselves in the line of fire each and every day. They carry badges and guns and most wear uniforms. They took oaths – like their brethren slain in Dallas – to uphold the law, even at the cost of their lives.
As these words are being written, deputies in Terrebonne and Lafourche, police officers in Houma, Thibodaux, Golden Meadow and Lockport, are one radio call away from walking, running or driving into danger. They are fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, wives and husbands. During one given tour of duty a single officer may disarm an emotionally distraught knife-wielder, take a report from a citizen whose house was burglarized or gasoline can, pilfered from a boat, watch helplessly as life drains from a victim of the most violent among us, the gun wielders who care nothing for life, and then seek to apprehend the perpetrator so that he might not harm anyone else in our community.
None of these officers is perfect and they recognize this. They make mistakes and they know this. They also know that when they do make mistakes, the stakes are high. A wrong move one way can needlessly result in the death of a civilian. A wrong move a different way can result in the death of an officer.
Police officers must make life-and-death decisions on a split-second notice, something that none of us is usually required to do.
Scrutiny of some split-second decisions by law enforcement officers has been the cause of people taking to the streets in Baton Rouge and many other communities. The officers slain in Dallas gave their lives while protecting the right of demonstrators critical of police actions.
It is tempting to give in to the polarizing aspects of the many tragedies that we have been faced with, and which affect the psyches of our local officers as well as the psyches of people of color in our own communities.
Fortunately, our communities even in times of crisis, such as when 14-year-old Cameron Tillman was killed in 2014 by an officer, a case resulting in his exoneration, have responded in a lawful and orderly manner. The epidemic we currently face is from young civilians killing each other, rather than lives being taken by law enforcement.
The continuing questions that arise nationally from police actions and the tragedy of the ambush in Dallas both beg answers and solutions.
As regards suggestions that police use-of-force policies and friction between police and those they must protect and serve, attention is required at a national and state level, which might one day result in standardized policies that might provide extra levels of safety for officers and civilians alike.
The need to properly scrutinize police actions is not obviated by the tragedy in Dallas. If anything, the Dallas executions strengthen theories that actions by a few bad apples in law enforcement result in increased danger for officers who follow the rules and act properly.
The execution of the officers in Dallas leads us to an additional conclusion.
Overburdened, politically volatile and under-equipped justice systems at the state and local level should not be trusted with the vital task of bringing to justice those who erode the safety of all of us by committing the ultimate crime against society, which is the murder of a law enforcement officer in the line of duty.
Justice in these cases must be swift and certain, leaving nothing to chance.
The time has come for serious consideration of legislation that will make the murder of a police officer a federal offense, to be investigated by federal authorities and prosecuted by federal attorneys in federal courts. If the murder of a postal worker can trigger the massive resources of the federal government for investigation and prosecution, surely the murder of a man or woman whose job is to protect all of us at personal risk should have the same result. It is only reasonable that every national resource available be utilized in the fullest way possible in response. •