Editorial: Obama in Dallas matches sobriety of moment


President Barack Obama sought to console a struggling nation Tuesday in his speech at the memorial service for fallen Dallas police officers. As president, his presence and words offered the sobriety such an event demands.

The Dallas police officers “saved more lives than we will ever know,” Obama said in praise of the department.

That couldn’t be truer.

Even as police conduct was the subject of an otherwise peaceful protest on Thursday, Dallas police officers took part in the event, and defended those protesters as they and police colleagues came under fire.

Obama’s tone was a much-needed improvement over his past approach to the subject of tensions between law enforcement and the black community.

He didn’t ignore feelings of many African-Americans that they’re disproportionately targeted by law enforcement or experience disparities in the criminal justice system.

And every incident like those in Minnesota and Louisiana — though the facts are not fully known — reinforces the emotions expressed by Black Lives Matter members and others.

Still, Obama unequivocally condemned violence against law enforcement, and the evil presented by the Dallas killer. He rightly pointed to the extreme danger police officers face in so many communities throughout the country.

As the United States teeters on the worst racial relations since the 1960s, it’s imperative that he continue to provide leadership that Americans of every race need to pre-empt more violence and further targeting of police officers — or of men and women of particular races.

He’s been careful to respect the rights of protesters in groups such as Black Lives Matter to peacefully express their disappointment, even anger, at what they perceive to be coordinated attacks on black men by law enforcement officers.

But feelings can’t trump the reality that there is not a coordinated war by law enforcement on blacks. Isolated incidents, though they spread quickly on social media, remain isolated.

There could be no greater risk to the safety of all Americans than a festering mistrust of and hostility toward police officers. Cops continue to do very difficult jobs in spite of the anger and bigotry being thrown at them.

As Dallas Police Chief David Brown said earlier this week, “We’re hiring.” His comments were directed at protesters who condemn the work of his officers, but lack any knowledge or willingness to help ease relationships within those communities while upholding law and order.

Just like the men the Black Lives Matter movement grieves, those Dallas officers were sons, husbands and fathers. Their lives mattered.

And as we have said in earlier editorials, law enforcement officers are not perfect. There will always be bad apples and room for improvement.

Police officers need more training to deal with non-threatening incidents that somehow turn violent.

And, as with any profession, there must be accountability to ensure the highest standards.

But none of those imperfections can be used as justification for violence against officers. These tensions must ease.

It’s encouraging to see Obama condemn these acts, and we hope he doesn’t have to make more speeches like that in Dallas as president.