By Martin Alan Greenberg
For The Sunday Gazette
This is what we know.
The slayer of five Dallas police officers said he was upset by recent police shootings.
His background included active duty with the U.S. Army Reserve in an engineering brigade and overseas duty in Afghanistan, where he served for less than a year as a carpentry and masonry specialist.
He was a private first class (E-3) at the time of discharge in April 2015.
The killer/sniper was a 25-year-old who did not appear to have any ties to international terrorism and no prior civilian criminal history.
He said before police used a robot device equipped with a bomb to kill him that he wanted to shoot white police officers.
According to Dallas Police Chief David Brown, the gunman was plotting larger attacks.
Citizens from across the nation have joined in protest marches. They are concerned about the recent police shootings in Minnesota and Louisiana as well as past incidents that have ended in the deaths of unarmed civilians.
Ironically, at the very same time the Dallas tragedy erupted, the city’s police were protecting civilian protesters concerned about such police shootings.
Currently, many law enforcement officers across the country are distraught, angry and anxious.
The police shootings of civilians and the weapon used by police to end the life of the Dallas sniper have not only raised new questions about the use of lethal force by police, but have prompted numerous police officials, political leaders, policy experts and average citizens to ask how America’s racial divide can be overcome.
New police community dialogue interventions and police training have been among the answers. But America’s long-standing educational and economic inequities appear to underpin much of its racial tension.
There are approximately 18,000 police departments in the United States. Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey has recommended cutting the number of departments in half “because you are always going to have these kinds of issues as long as you have this many departments with different policies, procedures, training and the like.”
Ramsey was appointed by President Obama in 2014 to help lead a White House policing task force.
In the meantime, the police remain the only 24-hour first-line defense and response for most Americans confronted by adversity or immediate harm.
Police will also respond to most calls for fire and ambulance assistance. Significantly, many of the fire and ambulance responders are typically unpaid volunteers, especially in rural or suburban communities.
Since at least World War II, unsalaried volunteer or auxiliary police have also been recruited and deployed to augment protective and emergency services.
For example, there are currently about 4,000 unpaid auxiliary police volunteers in New York City, and the city of Schenectady has had such a unit since the early 1950s.
Citizens who want to augment public safety have the opportunity, right now, to help elevate America’s racial partition by coming together in volunteer public safety roles.
As Americans train and work together in such units, they will inevitably bond and improve the human fabric of American society.
The police should personally welcome additional volunteers who are willing to support their harm-reduction efforts.
Abraham Lincoln once said: “To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.”
Dallas Police Chief Brown has said that anti-police violence protesters should consider becoming a part of the solution.
Today it is both right and possible for every good and sincere man and woman in America to be a sheriff.
Martin Alan Greenberg of Albany is director of education and research for the New York State Association of Auxiliary Police. He is the author of “American Volunteer Police,” which explores how average Americans (youth and adult) may assist public safety and ease racial tensions by participating in a variety of public safety organizations.