Less than a day after the chaotic murder of five police officers in Dallas Thursday evening — which followed two disturbing killings at the hands of law enforcement this week — two more police officers have been shot and hospitalized. Though both officers were on active duty and likely not subject to targeted attacks, the developments signal a potentially troubling, albeit predictable trend in the ongoing struggle between American citizens and law enforcement.
Officer Randall Hancock was responding to a damage to property call at an apartment complex Friday morning in Valdosta, Georgia, when he was shot multiple times. According to lead investigator at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), the officer was “under fire immediately” upon arriving. Both Hancock and the shooter were hospitalized. Hancock was wearing a bulletproof vest, as well as a body camera, and footage has been turned over to GBI — which, if ever released, will likely provide more details as to what exactly happened.
In Ballwin, Missouri, an officer is reportedly in critical condition after being shot in the neck during a traffic stop late Friday morning. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the shooter attacked the officer as he was walking back to his police car. Local Fox News affiliate KTVI reported police said the suspect was an African American male. After driving away from the scene of the shooting, he was eventually apprehended on foot.
Though more details are undoubtedly needed to draw comprehensive conclusions, on their face, Friday’s two shootings reveal an increasing sense of desperation in the United States. And whether the shootings were isolated incidents or inspired by the murders in Dallas on Thursday, the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile — or both — one thing is clear: America is reaching a boiling point.
Author Dan Sanchez pinpointed a pertinent factor in Thursday evening’s climactic conclusion to an emotionally-charged, violent week in the United States, noting the cause-and-effect dynamic so characteristic of government policies:
“Just as international terrorism is often blowback from international war and occupation, the sniper attack on cops in Dallas yesterday was blowback from American police acting as a domestic army of occupation. And just as the victims of terror attacks do not deserve to be killed for the crimes of war-making politicians, the victims of yesterday’s shootings did not deserve to be killed for the crimes of other cops.”
Certainly, the murdered and injured Dallas police officers did not incite the specific violence they received, and cop apologists are quick to point out, as usual, that not all police officers are bad. Yet police responses across the country to the Dallas shooting may only further inflame tensions between minority communities and law enforcement.
Some reactions are fair and understandable; as the New York Daily News noted, “the Dallas ambush prompted police departments in cities including Boston and Chicago to tell officers to patrol in pairs.”
Other responses are sure to incite further controversy. Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeant’s Benevolent Association, a police union known for defending violent officers, suggested the NYPD require its sergeants to carry assault rifles in their vehicles, as reported by the Daily News.
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the largest union in New York City, cited a war on cops — though this has been debunked time and again— arguing false information is behind the public’s disdain for law enforcement. Union President Patrick Lynch blamed the Dallas shootings on “erroneous information and inflammatory rhetoric put forward by groups and individuals whose agenda has nothing to do with justice,” likely referencing Black Lives Matter, as well as other police accountability groups (he also previously defended the officers involved in the death of Eric Garner).
“As we go forward, we need to take an honest, hard look at everything that wrongfully inflames emotions against police officers if we are going to be able to bring police officers and the community together,” he said.
However, many Americans would argue that the video evidence that often sparks national conversations on police abuse does not constitute “erroneous information” — and that calling for justice and accountability is not “inflammatory,” but necessary. Further, the union’s assertion that emotions against police officers are “wrongfully inflamed” is sure to drive deeper wedges between African-American and other communities affected by police violence, and the police officers who patrol them.
For example, former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh effectively declared war on President Obama and the Black Lives Matter movement shortly after the attack in Dallas. “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you,” he wrote, though he later deleted the tweet and claimed he was not calling for violence. Ironically, the president has contributed to the growth of the American police state.
While some statements by individuals and law enforcement groups have been reactionary, it does not change the fact that the officers killed on Thursday did not deserve to die. Just as it is wrong for police to disproportionately harass, assault, and kill African Americans, it is wrong for police opponents to kill officers simply because they are cops.
Sanchez observed that,
“[c]ollectivist retaliatory violence is not justice. It is despicable warfare and murder. That does not change the fact that refraining from collectivist violence is not only the right thing to do, but is also the best way to avoid collectivist retaliatory violence: that is, to avoid blowback.”
Without serious reflection on the part of law enforcement and their cheerleaders among the American populace, it is likely attacks like what occurred in Dallas, Ballwin, and Valdosta will continue to occur — just like terror attacks spurred by American military incursions.
As Sanchez concluded:
“We are not ‘blaming the victim’ when we counsel a foreign policy of peace. It is not only right; it is also the best way to be safe from terrorism. Neither is it ‘blaming the victim’ to counsel a domestic policy of justice. It is not only right; it is also the best way to be safe from civil unrest and domestic terrorism.”