DALLAS — Sharp fractures over policing and law enforcement continued to roil the nation Monday in the wake of a bloody, horrific week, as new details emerged in Dallas about the attacker who killed five police officers as well as those who survived the onslaught.
Police here said that they were still sifting through massive amounts of evidence related to the shooting rampage, an effort that entails watching hundreds of hours of videos and conducting scores of interviews. Even while they worked to piece together the gunman’s other plans, the Dallas police chief said he felt police officers were overworked in his city and across the nation.
“We’re asking cops to do too much in this country,” David Brown, the police chief in Dallas, said at a briefing Monday. “We are. Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the cops handle it. Here in Dallas we got a loose dog problem, let’s have the cops chase loose dogs. Schools fail, let’s give it to the cops. That’s too much to ask. Policing was never meant to solve all those problems.”
Some cities remained calm — like Memphis, where the interim police director linked arms with demonstrators — but the appearance of masked riot police in Baton Rouge, followed by widespread arrests there, evoked the frenzied unrest in Ferguson, Mo., which became a national flash point two years ago.
Even as Baton Rouge became the nexus of a debate over policing and law enforcement, the mass killing of police officers in Dallas last week loomed large over a heated debate. Calls for unity after the deaths of black men at the hands of police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and outside St. Paul, Minnesota, were mixed with angry partisan finger-pointing.
Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani strongly criticized the “Black Lives Matter” movement, calling it “inherently racist” and again claiming that the “the real danger” to black children is “other black kids who are going to kill them.” (He has made similar comments before; statistics show that most killings are carried out by people of the same race as the victim.)
Charles Ramsey, who served as police chief in Philadelphia and Washington, also warned of another potentially dangerous moment in the near future, saying that it’s likely “some incident” will occur at the the coming political conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia because of the “extreme rhetoric” raging nationwide.
“We are sitting on a powder keg,” Ramsey said during an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” Sunday. “I mean, you can call it a powder keg, you could say that we’re handling nitroglycerin. But obviously, when you just look at what’s going on, we’re in a very, very critical point in the history of this country.”
Brown, the Dallas police chief, said Monday that the rampage in his city would not deter him from continuing to push for reforms to law enforcement, much as his police department has become a model for reforms after a dark history.
“This tragedy, this incident, will not discourage us from continuing the pace of urgency in chasing and reforming policing in America,” Brown said.
Brown, who said he was “running on fumes,” also said Monday that he and his family “received death threats almost immediately after the shooting.”
As the investigation continues, Brown said that authorities believe the gunman — Micah Johnson, a 25-year-old Army veteran — had a larger plot to attack law enforcement as well as explosive materials that could have had “devastating effects” across the city.
“We’re convinced that this suspect had other plans and thought that what he was doing was righteous and believed that he was going to make law enforcement and target law enforcement, make us pay for what he sees as law enforcement’s efforts to punish people of color,” Brown told CNN on Sunday.