For Baton Rouge, Louisiana Police Department Lt. Robert McGarner, a simple prayer and embrace make a difference in dealing with tragedy. "Our community is healing and we need to support each other," McGarner said as a group of fellow officers surround a makeshift memorial to fellow fallen officers. McGarner's department, the community and nation, are mourning the loss of three Baton Rouge police officers who were ambushed and assassinated last Sunday by a gunman who authorities say expressed hatred for police.
Heartbreak and resolve to make peace between people and communities
The July 17 attack was on the heels of another targeted shooting in Dallas, Texas, where five police officers were killed on July 7 by a lone gunman with a military-style assault rifle. Both shooting suspects were black and their horrific crimes were committed against a backdrop of nationwide protests over police brutality against African-Americans.
Officer McGarner, who is black, said despite the violence and protests, officers understand they still have a job to do. "After I make my peace with God, I leave out my door and I am willing to give my life for any one of you out here. I don't know your name and I don't have to know your name," he said to a crowd of people surrounding him.
Tense time for cops and black community
Law enforcement analysts say many police departments feel embattled, leading to a heightened sense of vigilance among officers. "Please understand our position. We don't know you, and we don't know that you are not a threat. We don't know anybody in the scenario most often," said Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonald. Many of the nation's 18,000 law enforcement agencies acknowledge the complexities of the job, often responding to dangerous situations involving suspects who are agitated, under the influence of drugs or alcohol or struggling with mental illness.
Relations between police and African American communities remain tense, especially after viral videos (earlier this month) showed the graphic shooting death of an African American man by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and later, the aftermath of a deadly shooting in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Demonstrations in Baton Rouge led police officer Montrell Jackson, who was gunned down in the July 17 killing, to post on Facebook days earlier, "I love this city, but I wonder if this city loves me."
Black activists maintain that unjustified shootings of Africans Americans by police have to stop along with the retaliatory killing of police officers. "The black community is not anti-police; the black community is anti-police misconduct," Al Sharpton, a civil rights leader, said. He and other leaders are working with President Barack Obama on reducing violence and improving relations between police and African American communities.
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