Detroit Police on high alert after Dallas attack

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit police are on high alert Friday, a day after a sniper attack in Dallas left five police officers dead and seven wounded.

“We told our officers: Be diligent and rely on your training,” police chief James Craig said. “This is not an overreaction. We are in a higher state of alertness.

“I’m angry. The attack in Dallas is an attack on all law enforcement. Every police department in America was attacked last night. Some people want to dance around it, but let’s call this what it is: terrorism. Urban terrorism.

“Whether it’s ISIS or some other cowards, it doesn’t matter. And it’s been known for some time that law enforcement has been a target. It’s something we’ve been living with, and now even more so.”

As police try to process the shooting during what Dallas police described as a peaceful protest against officer-involved killings this week, 18 new Detroit Police officers are set to graduate this morning from the Police Academy.

“I worry about the new officers, as I’m worried about all officers, but I also worry about their families,” said Cmdr. Aric Tosqui, president of the Detroit Police Command Officers Association union. “It’s hard on them, too.

“We know there’s the potential for danger every time we come to work, but it’s not always completely at the front of your mind. You can’t live in the red; you have to live in the yellow. Be cautious but not paranoid all the time.

“But today, it’s tough to come to work and think about what happened last night in Dallas, and what could happen. You look at other professions, and most of them don’t have to worry about getting killed.”

Craig said Detroit police were not planning extra manpower at a Black Lives Matter protest slated for 8 p.m. Friday at Campus Martius.

“We are going to continue to function in the manner in which we do,” Craig told reporters Friday.

“If you want to protest, please do,” he added. “We support freedom of speech, we support lawful protest, however, we do not support acts of criminality.”

Detroit Police Officers Association president Mark Diaz said the shootings were the culmination of months of “anti-police rhetoric.”

“Everyone jumped to conclusions when Mike Brown and Freddie Gray were killed (last year by police in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore, respectively), and what happened? When cooler heads looked at it without emotions, in both cases the officers were found to have acted appropriately.”

Diaz said there isn’t enough information to draw conclusions from a few seconds of a viral video that shows a Baton Rouge officer fatally shooting 37-year-old Alton Sterling, one of the incidents prompting protests in Dallas and elsewhere.

The video has sparked outrage, but “people fly off the handle over a few seconds of video footage that don’t tell the whole story,” Diaz said.

“That video did not give me enough information to tell whether the officers’ actions were right or wrong. We don’t know what happened leading up to that situation; or what the officers could see from their vantage point. And that’s crucial in a use of force situation: What did the officers see?

“We have an element of society that chooses to persecute cops without knowing all the details of what transpired. People say, ‘Oh my God, I saw the video; I don’t need to see anything else.’ But you do need to see more.

“I do appreciate that the majority of Americans support police officers,” Diaz said. “They realize we put our lives on the line to protect them every day.

“That’s what happened in Dallas: You had these terrorists attacking police officers who were there protecting people’s right to peacefully demonstrate. Once we have all the evidence and the individuals who did this have had their due process, I hope they’re prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Society does not need people like that.”

To the new officers who will be sworn in Friday, Diaz said: “The cold reality is, we all know police work is not a hands-off job. Arresting a person is not pretty.

“However, these officers are about to take an oath to protect and serve the citizens. That’s absolutely our most important job. There’s a quote from the Code of Ethics: ‘I will maintain courageous calm in the face of danger, scorn or ridicule.’ That’s something I take very seriously.

“We have a job to to: Protect the citizens, and we’ll continue to do it, despite the extremists wanting us to stop. And we’ll do it professionally and in a dignified manner.

“As Detroit police officers, we’re always on high alert,” Diaz said. “But unfortunately, because of what these terrorists did, it’s a little more heightened than usual.”

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Twitter: GeorgeHunter_DN

Staff writer Nicquel Terry contributed.