After Rash of Police Officer Shootings, Law Enforcement Community Grieves

“It’s hard for us, and the greater law enforcement community, to keep a clear eye and a clear head when so much tragedy has been dealt to the Texas law enforcement community.”

By Rhonda FanningNovember 20, 2016 9:40 pm,

Update: A suspect in the shooting of San Antonio Police Officer Benjamin Marconi has been identified, but no name has been released.

Sunday just before noon, a San Antonio Police Officer was shot to death in his squad car while writing a ticket.

Benjamin Marconi, 50 years old, wasn’t shot by the person getting a ticket, but by another motorist who pulled up behind the officer’s cruiser, walked up and shot him in the head.

The incident happened outside the city’s police headquarters. The suspect is still on the loose.

Hours later, in St. Louis, Missouri, a 46-year-old police sergeant was shot in the face by someone who pulled up alongside his cruiser at an intersection. The officer survived his assailant, who was later killed in a police shootout.

That same day, in Sanibel Island along Florida’s gulf coast, an officer was shot during a traffic stop by a third party in what was also described as an ambush attack. The officer was not seriously injured. The suspect is in custody.

Reuters reports that the attacks are completely unrelated shootings.

But Charley Wilkison, Executive Director of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT), says they’re at least related in that there’s a spreading of anti-government hate speech across the nation.

“Police officers are part of the government. They’re part of the local political subdivisions to keep peace and to have law enforcement,” he says. “I don’t think all those people in St. Louis, in Florida, in Dallas and San Antonio are connected by any kind of communication. They’re connected by the dog-whistle language of hate that say the people trying to save you, protect your family, protect the wealth of this community, protect the businesses and the individuals – those people have suddenly become the enemy.”

Wilkison’s talk of “dog-whistle” language reflects a larger conversation that’s taking place surrounding the Blue Lives Matter movement – in part a response to the Dallas police shootings earlier this year. For the past two years, activist groups like Black Lives Matter have raised awareness of discrimination in officer-involved shootings.

“It seems like there is just so much hate out there and the lines are being blurred,” he says. “This is a time of where national conversation is not being directed in all ways, in the most fruitful way, toward reconciliation or consideration of other folks.”

Wilkison says the rash of shootings against law enforcement has been a blow to the community.

“It’s hard for us, and the greater law enforcement community, to keep a clear eye and a clear head when so much tragedy has been dealt to the Texas law enforcement community,” Wilkison says. “It’s hard to keep focused and remember that the goal is to return to normalcy as fast as possible and go right back to protecting the community.”

Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.