Reid: We Must Bridge Gaps Between Police And Communities They Serve

“There is no justification for such a senseless, evil act. This shooting rampage ran counter to the message conveyed by the peaceful demonstrators. The people at the Dallas march were demonstrating for an end to violence. They were calling for no more brutality and hostility that has taken the lives of Americans of all backgrounds, but disproportionately people of color.”

“We have, as President Obama called it last year, “a slow-rolling crisis” of troubling police interactions with people of color. And because we are not addressing the problem, people are rightly outraged. We all should be outraged. Police brutality is not a new issue.”

“As a nation, we must work to bridge the gaps between police and the communities they serve and unite against prejudice and brutality.”

Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senator floor today about the need to unite and bridge gaps between police and the communities they serve. Below are his remarks:

 Last Thursday night, a peaceful protest for justice in Dallas, erupted into violence as a sniper ambushed law enforcement officers. Five police officers were killed. Nine were wounded – seven police officers and two civilians.

We grieve with the victims, their families, and the brave men and women who serve the people of Dallas, Texas. We thank the police and first responders whose timely action prevented further loss of life, and there would have been plenty. It is insufficient to say that we, as a nation, are saddened by this attack. We are devastated. We are aghast by this sickening violence perpetrated on innocent police officers who were on duty to protect and serve.

There is no justification for such a senseless, evil act. This shooting rampage ran counter to the message conveyed by the peaceful demonstrators. The people at the Dallas march were demonstrating for an end to violence. They were calling for no more brutality and hostility that has taken the lives of Americans of all backgrounds, but disproportionately people of color.

That message should not be lost, particularly in the aftermath of the two fatal shootings last week in Louisiana and Minnesota. Last Tuesday, Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was pinned down by two police officers and then fatally shot. The next day, on the outskirts of St. Paul, Minnesota, a 32-year-old school cafeteria supervisor named Philando Castile, was pulled over for a broken taillight. The police officer killed Castile when he reached for his license as his fiancé and her four-year old daughter sat in the car and watched.

We are saddened by this loss of life, but this epidemic persists. But our condolences mean nothing if this epidemic of violence persists. Our words are worthless if we do nothing to stop the violence.

The black community is grieving over the disproportionate number of deaths of their young men. How would you explain all these deaths? How would you explain this violence to your children? Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy in Cleveland – killed by police for holding a BB gun. Or Freddie Gray, in Baltimore. Or Eric Garner, in New York. Or the other unarmed black men who died in confrontations with law enforcement.

Five-hundred and twelve people have been shot and killed by police in 2016. Black Americans are killed at a rate two-and-a-half times greater than that of whites. According to the Washington Post, the number of fatal shootings by police officers increased during the first six months of this year. Twenty-six more killed this year than during the first half of last year.

The evidence is indisputable. We have, as President Obama called it last year, “a slow-rolling crisis” of troubling police interactions with people of color. And because we are not addressing the problem, people are rightly outraged. We all should be outraged. Police brutality is not a new issue.

I echo the pleas from the Congressional Black Caucus leaders who are calling for more funds and more training for our police departments. We must help ensure those who police our neighborhoods have proper training in community-oriented policing and de-escalation tactics. The Congressional Black Caucus said that, and I agree.

The Dallas Police Department is exemplary in the effectiveness of community policing. Long before this tragedy in Dallas, long, glowing articles have rightly been written about the Dallas Police Department. America looks to Dallas – other police chiefs look to Dallas – not only to grieve for the fallen officers, but to learn from the department’s improvements under the leadership of Police Chief David Brown.

But, as Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said in the aftermath of these attacks, we must get to the root cause. From Baton Rouge to St. Paul to Dallas, intolerance and hate are breeding division and violence. As a nation, we must work to bridge the gaps between police and the communities they serve and unite against prejudice and brutality.