Dallas cop apologizes to community for police brutality at public memorial

A Dallas police officer is taking an interesting tactic and apologizing for police brutality at a public memorial for one of the cops killed in last week’s attack. The officer, who isn’t identified because he’s an undercover cop, told people at Watermark Community Church during Sergeant Michael Smith’s memorial how the police-community relationship has been damaged by both sides (emphasis original).

“Unfortunately this relationship has been hurt by the misdeeds of the few. Whether it be law enforcement or from the civilians who wish to do others harm. In order to forge a continued relationship, forgiveness of the hurt must come first.”

The officer went on to look at what needs to happen next.

“Love they say is the answer. It sounds great, but how to we accomplish that when there’s been so much tension, hatred, fear, and confusion. Forgiveness must come first for love to be established. The same forgiveness that Jesus Christ gives us.

Communication and change of action must follow to reestablish that trust.”

It’s here where he get to the heart of the matter (emphasis mine).

“To those protesters who cried out Thursday night to my team as we rushed to El Centro to help out, “How does it to be the ones hunted now,” I say to you, I’m sorry. I am so very sorry that you felt as if your voice, your opinion, and your life did not matter to us.

I am sorry for the misdeeds and wrongs of the few in my profession, over the years, that have caused and created this distrust, fear, and anger towards law enforcement.

We want a relationship in the community. Because we cannot carry this fight by ourselves. We cannot fight the criminals and the people we have sworn to protest. You do matter.”

This may seem odd to do after five cops were murdered, but the officer believed it was important to stand there and say, “I’m sorry.” I’ve no idea what his political beliefs are, nor do I really care. What the officer said was right on. Yes, police-community relations are much better than they were in the 1950s and 1960s when they were used as tool by the state to crack down on minorities. Or the 1990’s in New York when Public Enemy raised questions about whether or not police actually cared about them. It’s gotten better.

But there are still occasional times when police departments are infected with corruption, as a whole. The Justice Department found last year that while Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson feared for his life in Michael Brown’s killing, the city was focused on getting as much money as possible from people, and encouraged police to do more traffic stops and more fines. Chicago police officers have destroyed dashcam microphones. Baltimore has paid out millions since 2011 in police brutality settlements. A Honolulu cop is accused of rape for having sex with a 14-year-old girl. These high-profile cases have undoubtedly caused friction and distrust.

It’s important to realize there’s much more to the Dallas police officer’s apology. He also had a challenge to the media (emphasis mine).

“The only way to rebuild trust is through actions. So I ask the news media to help us in that. I know it is your job to convey the news and report information so that all may know what is going on in the world.

You have a great responsibility. And with that responsibility comes enormous power.

You have the power to control the masses with the stories you air. It is extremely difficult for a community to trust their police officer, when all that is aired is reasons why they should not trust their police officers…

I’m not telling you to stop sharing information. I’m just asking that you share all of it. The thousands of good things law enforcement does across this country every second, every community deserves to hear.

The community needs to be reassured that even though there may have been some bad apples in our bunch, they are still protected by and able to trust their police department by the numerous positive actions that occur on a daily basis of every single law enforcement officer here today, and watching this, and out on the streets right now answering 911 calls.

I beseech you, please help us build this trust again. We cannot do it without you.”

He’s right. The media can help good police officers and departments. One reason why this might not happen on a regular basis is because bad news sells. It’s easier and sexier to report on the bad stuff, than the good stuff. Why do you think it took days for news outlets to start reporting about the fact Dallas Black Lives Matters protesters, counter-protesters, and police officers came together to start praying for each other. Or the fact this officer’s comments haven’t really been reported in the media. Only two national media outlets (to my knowledge) reported on Glendale, Ohio Officer Josh Hilling’s decision to not kill a minority trying to commit suicide by cop or the fact a man who lost two family members in September 11th is now a member of the NYPD. These are good stories which can show police are there to protect others.

Yes, there is police corruption and brutality out there, which needs to be reported on. No police department is perfect, and there’s nothing wrong with raising questions about the tactics they use or the equipment they have. But there are plenty more police officers out there who do good things, and legitimately want to serve their community and protect others. There are departments out there who work hard in fostering good relationships with the community (like the Dallas Police Department). If what they did were more widely reported, maybe people would start seeing police officers differently, while still keeping an eye out for those cops/departments who do bad things.

There’s another side to this coin. There is nothing wrong with listening to people who are protesting police brutality and trying to see if they have a point. Yes, there have been protesters who shout, “Fry piggies,” but there are also protesters who want actual change. Watermark Pastor Todd Wagner made this point during his message during Smith’s memorial service.

I’ve told my friends a lot, that the statement “Black Lives Matter,” needs to be understood. I used to…when I first heard that, I [thought] that’s the most racist statement I’ve ever heard. I called my friends who were black and go, “What are you doing, why are you guys saying this?”

And they explained to me. They said, “Todd we’re saying this because we don’t believe that you guys notice some of the injustice that we feel like we’re experiencing.“

And so I listened some more. I said, “Tell me about your experiences.”

Wagner went further (emphasis mine).

“One of the things that one of them said to me, which is incredibly insightful, is “Todd you care about the unborn, right? I know you do. You talk a lot about the unborn. And when you say that “unborn lives matter,” you’re not telling me that you think people who are already born don’t matter. You’re just telling me you feel like there’s a certain injustice, a certain purview, a certain way that unborn children are seen, and discarded, and mistreated, and that they’re not valued. Completely destroyed. And you’re trying to raise and contextualize the fact that there’s a certain segment of society that isn’t valued. I sometimes, as a person of color, feel like I’m not valued.”

But let me just tell you something…nothing is going to change, when people who say, “Black Lives Matter,” hypocritically destroy any life”.

Are there bad actors under the Black Lives Matter moniker? Yes there are, and they’ve been reported, and seen, all across the country. The woman who told CNN she wasn’t interested in joining the police because, “We don’t want to be incorporated into the system of policing that’s fundamentally oppressive,” or the BLM protester who said on MSNBC, “there is a distinct difference between the actions of the protesters and the actions of the police,” when talking about violence by some protesters against police. Or the riots in Ferguson and Baltimore.

But it’s doubtful these are the majority of those protesting against police violence. Much like the bad actors in police departments, these are just the ones being reported on because bad news sells. That helps propagate the idea BLM members are just interested in rioting and causing trouble, instead of actual police reform.

The fact is both sides need to be willing to sit down and talk with each other. They’re not going to agree on everything, but serious discussion on issues can lead to solutions and a lessening of tensions. Nationally broadcast town halls might work, but local town halls work better because every community is different. It’s possible it will take years for this to happen, and there definitely needs to be changes in laws so police aren’t focused on arresting people for all the things (and the community isn’t worried about being picked up for *insert issue here*). But it’s still possible. Once people, politicians, and police departments start looking at more solutions.

Author’s note: There have been some complaints regarding some of the quotes in the article. The quotes were written directly from a recording of the memorial, and I have done my best to write them out verbatim (except for the second sentence of Todd Wagner’s first quote where I had to add [thought] in the sentence). Any spelling errors are intentional, as that is what was said during the memorial.
As for why the undercover officer’s name wasn’t released, that’s the truth. WFAA (which was the only station to show the memorial in full) refused to show his face and name during their broadcast of the memorial, saying the officer was an undercover cop. I respect that decision, and have followed suit.
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David Strom 3:31 PM on November 30, 2022