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Community Safety

What Group Leaders, Local Law Enforcement Are Saying About the Dallas Shootings

Scott Harvey

Springfield’s NAACP president says we cannot return violence for violence. Cheryl Clay was using a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.  in reference to the killings of five Dallas police officers and wounding of many others Thursday night.

They were on duty in downtown Dallas during a peaceful protest that was calling attention to the recent shooting deaths of two black men by officers in Louisiana and Minnesota. On Tuesday, Alton Sterling was shot and killed by Baton Rouge Police officer outside of a convenience store. On Thursday night, Philando Castile was shot and killed while in his car during a traffic stop outside of St. Paul.

Clay said she understands the anger.

“I mean when is there gonna be justice for all the murders of people of color by the law enforcement? When is someone going to be held accountable?”

But Clay said targeting police is not the answer, and expressed her sympathies for the families of the Dallas officers.

Clay has often been a news source for issues impacting African American persons. In speaking to KSMU, she questioned why she wasn’t contacted earlier by media outlets for reaction after the shooting deaths of Sterling and Castile.

“Two black men were killed earlier in the week and I didn’t hear from anybody until the police shooting yesterday. And now everybody wants an interview. So it kind of gives me a sour taste in my mouth.”

Captain Bob Higginbotham, of the Joplin police department, says the events have made the department more mindful of the potential dangers. But, he says, it will not stop them from doing their job.

“We’re here to serve and protect and that’s what we’re going to do,” Higginbotham states.

He adds that officers are trained for events such as ambushes.

“They’re aware that this is potentially something they may have to address in their career and they’re not doing anything different than they were yesterday.”

In a statement, Greene County Sheriff Office Sheriff Jim Arnott extended his condolences and to the Dallas community, as well as to Saint Louis, where an officer was shot and wounded earlier Friday.

The sheriff called it a tragic and unfortunate situation but not a representation of the community that we live in.

“These horrific acts by a few criminals should not be interpreted as the national public sentiment. We are very fortunate to live in the Ozarks where law enforcement officers are surrounded by a supportive community. We cannot predict when or where a tragic event such as this one will occur but I am confident that our officers are provided with the training and equipment they need to serve their communities. I have reminded the Greene County Deputies to remain vigilant in their duties.”

The Greene County Sheriff’s Office says it will be in attendance at upcoming memorial services for the fallen Dallas Police Officers.

Police Chief Paul Williams told the Springfield News-Leader he was shocked at the news out of Dallas, adding that there has been more discussion amongst his officers about safety and vigilance.

Williams says while everyone deals with grief their own way, he called police officers a “resilient bunch” that are capable of compartmentalizing their responsibilities and personal emotions.

He added that officers are there during protests to provide safety and security, and encourages protest organizers to contact the department ahead of time so that officers can be in a better position to help.