Editorials

What should go without saying this tragic week

The Observer editorial board

A Dallas police officer, who did not want to be identified, takes a moment as she guards an intersection early Friday.
A Dallas police officer, who did not want to be identified, takes a moment as she guards an intersection early Friday. AP

It should go without saying, but:

The police are not bad.

Yes, there are some police officers who shouldn’t be police officers, and there are some who lack the training to deal with the threats, both real and perceived, that other officers handle so well.

Yes, if we paid police a wage that reflected the responsibility we give them, we might have fewer who don’t meet the standards we set for them.

We can and should protest when those officers do wrong. We can and should ask why in too many of those cases, the officers are white and the victims are black.

And it should go without saying, but: Police violence shouldn’t be met with violence against police.

Five Dallas police officers died this week, brutally shot late Thursday by at least one sniper during an otherwise calm downtown march. One suspect told police he was angry at white people, specifically white police officers for shootings that killed black men.

There were two more of those this week, in Louisiana and Minnesota, and those shootings prompted marches in cities across the country, including Charlotte. Most weren’t tainted by violence, but they were marked with anger.

That’s understandable. But while it’s right to demand that cities confont the root causes of tragedies like Baton Rouge and suburban St. Paul, we also should acknowledge that each day, police overwhemingly do what we expect of them, and sometimes more.

That’s especially and ironically true in Dallas, where Chief David Brown and his department have been recognized locally and nationally for their community-oriented approach to policing as well as their transparency about the use of excessive force.

The same is largely true in Charlotte, where a 2013 police shooting of an unarmed black man has resulted in a reexamination of the police department’s use-of-force policies. What it didn’t result in was significant unrest in the city, a reflection of the emphasis CMPD has placed on its relationships with the communities it serves.

Those relationships aren’t perfect, but here and elsewhere, police care about the people they interact with and the neighborhoods they patrol. A year ago, in this space, we told you about one of those CMPD officers, Scott Evett, who was looking for a robbery suspect in the east Charlotte community he patrolled when a ball rolled in front of his vehicle.

Evett stopped what he was doing, retrieved the ball and returned it to 3-year-old Marley Cox, who gave him a high-five. A picture of the moment found its way on Facebook, which led to a dinner between the Evett, his family and the Cox family.

The two families found what you might expect, that they shared more things than they didn’t. And we discovered, in the days after publishing their story, that there are many more like it involving the police and our community.

On this day, in this troubling week, it would be good to remember that. Certainly, we should stand against society’s wrongs and confront the realities of race relations – and we should note, once again, the availability of assault-style weapons that are involved in these massacres we mourn.

But we also should remember that although it may not be true for a relative few, the police and the people they serve want to live peacefully and with justice together.

It should go without saying, in fact. Or maybe it’s something that’s not said enough.

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