Liz Goodwin, Yahoo! News, July 8, 2016
The nation’s largest police union is calling on the Justice Department to investigate the fatal shooting of five police officers in Dallas Thursday night as a hate crime–and is criticizing President Obama for his response to the shootings so far.
“We’d like to see the president make one speech that speaks to everybody instead of one speech that speaks to black people as they grieve and one speech that speaks to police officers as they grieve,” said Jim Pasco, the executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents 330,000 officers. “We don’t need two presidents, we only need one. We need one who works to unify the United States.”
Pasco said the union is looking for stronger voices of support for law enforcement within the administration and elsewhere. On Thursday, Obama addressed two recent police shootings of black men, calling them tragedies that point to entrenched racial disparities in the criminal justice system. “When incidents like this occur, there is a big chunk of our fellow citizenry that feels as if because of the color of their skin, they are not being treated the same,” Obama said, adding that he had respect and appreciation for the “vast majority” of police officers who protect Americans every day. Friday morning, hours after the shooting of police in Dallas, Obama called the shootings a “vicious, calculated, despicable attack” and vowed “justice will be done.”
Pasco said his union would like justice to take the form of a hate crime investigation into the shootings.
“The U.S. Department of Justice is always quick to insert itself into local investigations, sometimes before the preliminary reports are even in,” Chuck Canterbury, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said in a statement. “Today we expect action just as swift–we want a federal investigation into those who were motivated by their hatred of police to commit mass murder in Dallas last night.”
The union has pushed unsuccessfully for federal legislation to make killing someone because they are a police officer a hate crime. Some states, including Louisiana, have adopted state-level police hate crime laws. Hate crimes typically carry harsher punishments than regular crimes.