The back-to-back police shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile last week reignited a national debate over race and police tactics. Activists hoped the national outrage would finally lead to meaningful policing reform. But they now see the deadly police ambush in Dallas as jeopardizing the effort to change law-enforcement tactics. Our Washington, D.C. bureau reporter Geoff Bennett has more.
The sniper who shot and killed five Dallas police officers Thursday night during an otherwise peaceful march against police brutality threatens to claim another casualty: the policing reform effort itself.
"Whenever those of us who are concerned about fairness in the criminal justice system attack police officers, you are doing a disservice to the cause," said President Obama on Sunday in Madrid.
The president’s statement conveys an argument that some conservatives are now making: that the incident in Dallas and the growing tide of activism, led by the Black Lives Matter movement, undermines respect for law enforcement.
"The police understand it, and it puts a target on their back," said Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, during an appearance on CBS News' Face the Nation.
Kristen Clarke tackled the issue as the former head of the Civil Rights Bureau at the New York Attorney General’s Office. She's now the president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
"I think many African Americans across our country have lost faith in police departments and are really looking for some strong leadership right now," said Clarke, "are really looking for those police chiefs and folks at the helm in cities to get police departments to use this moment to reflect on the work that they need to do to ensure that these deadly incidents never happen again.”
While we don’t yet know how the tragedy in Dallas will affect the policing reform effort moving forward, there’s little evidence of change so far.
The White House organized a policing task force two years ago, following a series of officer-involved killings of black men.
The group says at least nine states and municipalities have since adopted some of its recommendations. That equates to nine out of the country’s eighteen thousand police departments.
“That's part of why it's so tragic that those officers were targeted in Dallas — a place that is, because of its transparency and training and openness and engagement with the community, has drastically brought down the number of police shootings and complaints about misconduct," Obama said Sunday.
It's a sad irony, as leaders and activists now reconsider prospects for policing reform.