Violence is NEVER the answer to any frustration with law enforcement or the criminal justice system regardless of the merits of those complaints. The attack and assassinations that occurred last week in Dallas are
horrific and inexcusable.
Innocent police officers were maliciously gunned down
while they were serving to guarranty the protestors' right of peaceable assembly. The horror of that night's events is like none other for police in the fifteen years since 9/11 and tears at the fabric of our nation.
In Dallas, Texas, where the police have made great strides and efforts to improve their relationships with the communities they serve and worked with other stakeholders to improve the local criminal court system - these assassinations are particularly repugnant and despicable.
Although as criminal defense lawyers we are often vigilant for and the loudest critics of mistakes or misconduct by police in individual cases, we are also very appreciative of good, thorough and honest police work which many times exonerates the innocent or avoids the necessity of an unecessary trial which may end worse than effective negotiations based on comprehensive and clear investigative work by all parties.
I have worked cases recently and over my career handled by good and honest Houston Police officers, DEA agents, Deputy Sheriffs, Deputy Constables, and many other law enforcement officials who behaved appropriately and testified honestly. Sometimes that honest testimony makes things difficult and convicts a client. Sometimes that honesty involves admitting what they did not or could not know and where things could or should have been handled differently or even that mistakes were made. Even honest people make honest mistakes. The point is that it is an honest answer to an honest question - which is what the law and the oath require.
There is, for ample reason, a national debate and disussion about how to improve the relationship between police and the communities they serve, the appropriate use of force, and how to identify and defuse situtiuations involving the mentally ill to avoid violence and tragedy. As a criminal defense lawyer, I have seen enough of both perpetrated by or against my clients, much of which was avoidable and unnecessary or the result of untreated mental illness.
The public sphere, including legislatures and our courts are the appropriate places for any frustrations or problems that citizens may have with their government and its police to be aired and resolved, peacefully and respectfully under the rule of law and according to our democratic principles - NOT in street violence or thru murder or assassination. That difference is, in essence, what separates a civilized society from the anarchy it was designed to prevent. It is not perfect, but it is preferable to the alternative, which is the chaos common in other parts of the world whose citizens flee to our shores for the better life our rule of law provides.
I was struck yesterday by the following passage from former President Bush's words at the memorial service,
Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions. And this is…
And this has strained our bonds of understanding and common purpose. But Americans, I think, have a great advantage. To renew our unity, we only need to remember our values.
We have never been held together by blood or background. We are bound by things of the spirit, by shared commitments to common ideals.
At our best, we practice empathy, imagining ourselves in the lives and circumstances of others. This is the bridge across our nation’s deepest divisions.
And it is not merely a matter of tolerance, but of learning from the struggles and stories of our fellow citizens and finding our better selves in the process.
At our best, we honor the image of God we see in one another. We recognize that we are brothers and sisters, sharing the same brief moment on Earth and owing each other the loyalty of our shared humanity.
At our best, we know we have one country, one future, one destiny. We do not want the unity of grief, nor do we want the unity of fear. We want the unity of hope, affection and high purpose.