The recent surge of media attention to victims of police mistreatment has led to a massive outcry across the country and triggered several tragic events, such as the 2016 shooting of several police officers by a single perpetrator in Dallas, Texas. Among other implications, the incident illustrated significant inconsistencies in emergency management and the state of the local homeland security.
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The incident suggests the necessity to review the current approach to managing high-risk situations and should be studied with the utmost attention. The following paper is an attempt to determine the reasons behind the dramatic events that occurred in Dallas, identify the gaps in security and emergency response strategies, locate the national and international responses to the incident, and provide an overview of the strategies that can improve the identified shortcomings.
Based on the survey administered to law enforcement officers, government executives, and Dallas County residents, the conclusion was reached that the primary causes of the tragedy included the lack of communication between the police, the local community, and the involved organizations, such as the activist groups.
Based on the findings of the survey, several strategies are suggested for the improvement of homeland security, including the adoption of proactive stance in policy modification, collaboration with the involved parties, and several adjustments in resourcing and financing policies of the police departments. While additional inquiry might be necessary for verification and weighting of the suggested strategies, the consistency of the conclusions with the results of the analytic framework suggests that the adoption of the identified strategies would lead to improvements in the emergency management capabilities and increase the overall state of the homeland security.
The data collected from the interviews allow us to trace several prevailing opinions among the respondents. It should be noted that while all of the data illustrates the reasons behind the incident, only a certain portion of it can be applied directly to the emergency response of the law enforcement, while other responses focus on various causes of the tragedy. Therefore, the former will be used to answer the second research question, and the latter can be adapted to complement the information from the analytic framework in order to formulate the answer to the first research question, respectively.
The interviews revealed several gaps in the emergency response of law enforcement. Interestingly, different parties tended to focus on different dimensions of emergency management and policymaking. Most notably, the majority of law enforcement officers described the situation as originating from the resource and financial shortages. Specifically, numerous respondents pointed to the fact that the police officers frequently suffer from the deficit of necessary protective equipment, such as bulletproof vests.1
This point of view was shared by the police representatives of different ranks and partially present in the responses of several government officials. However, it was not identified as a reason by either of the Dallas County residents, either due to the lack of awareness or because of the different angles on the problem. At this point, it should be mentioned that a bulletproof vest capable of sustaining the fire of the high-caliber arms is an expensive piece of equipment, and supplying it to patrolling officers in sufficient amounts is expected to be a challenging task from a both logistical and financial perspective.2
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Therefore, insufficient financial support of the police departments can be considered one of the underlying causes of the incident. This assertion is partially confirmed by the data from the interviews since several law enforcement representatives stated their concerns with the inadequate resource supply that prevents them from reaching the desired level of efficiency. For example, several police officers pointed to the fact that patrolling duties are currently performed mostly by single-patrolling officers, whose response capacity is limited, respectively, and that the pairing with a patrol vehicle would add to the emergency response efficiency tremendously.
At this point, it is worth adding that the placement of patrolling vehicles was a common practice at some point in the past, but was eventually dismissed due to the financial difficulties and changes in the human resources policies of law enforcement. Notably, this aspect is among those that have already been addressed at the time of the study, with several attempts by the police departments to readjust the strategies of emergency responses (Sanburn, 2016). The combination of the evidence above further confirms the link between the resource supply and the efficiency of the emergency response.
It should be pointed out that the financial perspective of the issue was brought up only in the interviews with the government officials, while the police officers focused on the absence or scarcity of specific equipment. Nevertheless, it would be reasonable to imply a relationship between the two and conclude that insufficient financial support is among the gaps in Dallas homeland security.
Finally, some of the officers pointed to the fact that the definitive resolution was brought into the situation through the involvement of the hi-end equipment (the bomb-disposal police robot). In this way, they emphasized the necessity to implement the technologically advanced equipment across the law enforcement segment in order to prepare for an adequate response without compromising the safety of the staff. While this information does not relate directly to any of the research questions, it serves an illustration to the validity of claims about the important role of the equipment and the associated increase in efficiency of the emergency response.
Another notable criticism, voiced primarily by the Dallas resident group, was in the lack of understanding between the police force and the general population.3 This aspect was reflected in two distinct directions taken by the interviewees. First, the participants suggested that the police does not communicate its tasks and responsibilities clearly enough, which results in the distorted perception of their actions and leads to the build-up of the hostile attitudes. On the other hand, the shortcomings and failures of the police officers are often picked up by the media and sometimes exaggerated in order to sensationalize the material.
Several respondents characterized the situation as complicated with numerous cultural and ethnic issues and suggested that such a setting makes the police extremely vulnerable to the attacks by the press. The second aspect raised by the county residents was the lack of public understanding of their rights in the encounters with the police officers. While it does not seem to have a direct link to the 2016 shootings, it can be argued that such understanding could prevent the preceding events.
Specifically, it was pointed out independently by three respondents that on numerous occasions the victims of the police violence displayed conflicting behavior and showed little compliance without the apparent reason. This approach, according to the interviewees, did not improve their chances for fair treatment and aggravated both their position and the situation in general. Interestingly, such allegations correlate to the recent changes in the Texas policies suggested in response to the shootings. Most notably, the policy proposal was made to incorporate educational events aimed at teaching young drivers to respond properly to the encounters with the police (Silver, 2016b).
If integrated into school curriculum, such events would hopefully shorten the gap in understanding between the law enforcement and the population and, by extension, decrease the likelihood of fatal encounters, thus eliminating the premise for similar shootings. The correlation between the interview results and the proposed changes in policies suggest that miscommunication can be considered both the cause of the incident (relevant for Q1) and the gap in the homeland security (relevant to Q2). Besides, it illustrates the changes that took place nationally in response to the event, thus giving insight into Q3, and serve an example of strategies for Q4.
Finally, the lack of collaboration with both the community and the related organizations was identified as compromising factor by all three groups. While this issue bears a resemblance to the alleged lack of understanding detailed above, it focuses on the mutual development of the solutions by the involved stakeholders. Most notably, the interviewees suggested that the emergency response could be organized more effectively if the police officials contacted the Black Lives Matter movement representatives in order to decide on the appropriate course of action.
At the very least, the risks associated with patrolling could be identified and weighted, and the patrolling strategies could be properly readjusted prior to the event. In addition, some of the respondents suggested that the intentions of the police and their stance towards the situation should have been communicated more clearly, which could decrease the anxiety of the perpetrator. While it is hard to measure the potential effect of the changes in communication policies, this response at the very least illustrates the cause of the tragic events and offers one potential strategy for its mitigation in the future. It should be noted that while the described view was voiced by the representatives of all three groups, only a small fraction of interviewees within each group suggested this solution, making it the least popular approach.
The presented findings contain sufficient information for answering research questions one and two and provide indirect evidence to the conclusions reached in the analytic framework. In accordance with the findings, the following conclusions are suggested. The main reasons for the tragedy were the complicated cultural and ethnic context accompanying the reoccurring instances of police violence, the lack of understanding of law enforcement procedures among the population, the failure to communicate the stance of the law enforcement towards the preceding events, and, to a lesser degree, inconsistencies in the chosen response strategies.
The principle gaps in homeland security and emergency management were the apparent resource and equipment deficits, and, by extension, the scarcity financial support, the lack of predetermined response strategies, the absence of coordination with the involved organizations (e.g. Black Lives Matter movement), and the inability to enact the relevant policies in a proactive manner. The national changes that could be identified as related to the incident included the modification of the surveillance and security tactics during the participation in police protesting events, the adjustments in response strategies (e.g. the increase in pairing of the police officers with the patrolling vehicles), and numerous policy proposals for the state of Texas (Sanburn, 2016).
The most notable policies included the introduction of the educational programs for youth aimed at explaining the appropriate behavior and a recommended course of action during the encounters with police officers and the modification of the complaint system for citizens who became the victims of police mistreatment (Silver, 2016c). Thus, the changes in policies are evidently attempting to target the issue from different perspectives.
No international reactions were identified that could be conclusively attributed to the incident. The most probable reason for this is the scope of the event which may be considered insufficient for triggering the large-scale reaction as well as the fact that the event occurred fairly recently and the enactment of the international policies is a lengthy process. The desirable strategies identified by the respondents included the search for financing opportunities, the review of the existing equipment decisions (e.g. the introduction of the superior bulletproof vests on a larger scale), the cooperation with the involved organizations, and the improvement of the communication strategies aimed at the local communities (Silver, 2016a).
The identified strategies are consistent with the findings of the analytic framework, which identified the communicative network as one of the recommended emphases for the improvement in emergency response (Wukich & Mergel, 2015). In addition, the proactive review and readjustment of policies can be considered a viable strategy since the analytic framework clearly identifies the inability to incorporate preventive measures before the incident takes place (Barton & Johns, 2013). It should be pointed out that the current research is exploratory in nature and does not provide the possibility to assess the relative efficiency of the suggested strategies. Therefore, the results of the study should be used with caution when implemented into practice without further inquiry.
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Barton, A., & Johns, N. (2013). The policy-making process in the criminal justice system. New York, NY: Routledge.
Sanburn, J. (2016). How America’s police are responding to Baton Rouge and Dallas. Time. Web.
Silver, J. (2016a). Dan Patrick wants Texas to buy rifle-resistant vests for patrol officers. Web.
Silver, J. (2016b). Texas senator: Schools should teach teens how to handle police stops. Web.
Silver, J. (2016c). Texas troopers, Austin police will make complaining easier. Web.
Wukich, C., & Mergel, I. (2015). Closing the citizen-government communication gap: Content, audience, and network analysis of government tweets. Homeland Security & Emergency Management, 12(3), 707-735.
- See Silver (2016a) for the suggested measures to address the issue.
- This was explained in detail by one of the respondents.
- Consistent with the findings of Wukich and Mergel (2015).