Law enforcement agencies across the region are dealing with community reactions, both positive and negative, to the recent police-involved shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota as well as the sniper attack on officers in Dallas.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross has observed the many protests in Philadelphia, including a demonstration in North Philadelphia Saturday in which protesters insulted officers, calling them pigs while chanting, “F*** the police.” Those involved in Saturday’s protest, which was organized by the Philly Coalition for Real Justice, say they targeted Philly’s 24th and 25th District due to what they believe is a history of injustice against black and brown people in the community.
“They have every right to protest what they believe are injustices and that’s okay,” Ross said. “But to have someone in your face, an inch from your nose, calling you everything under the sun, you don’t go through training and magically become a robot.”
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Despite the tension, no arrests were made during the demonstration and the officers stood silently for the most part as the protest went on. Commissioner Ross told NBC10 he was proud of the restraint the officers showed.
“I couldn’t have been more proud of them,” Ross said. “They were professional. They were patient and I admire their resolve.”
Police departments in other parts of the region have received messages of support from their communities, including cards, letters, food and donations. Frank Engro showed up to the Whitpain Township Police Department bearing food and Wawa gift cards.
“They had a hard time last week,” Engro said. “What could you do for people other than have a lunch on me? I can’t take all these people to lunch so have a nice lunch on me.”
Whitpain Township Police Chief Kenneth Lawson told NBC10 the gifts were unexpected but the department is grateful.
“No police officer wants to ever harm anybody,” Lawson said. “We always want to do what’s right for the community. If we constantly do what our public expects of us we will overcome this.”
Lawson, who has been on the force for more than 30 years, said he’s never seen anything like what he saw during the attack on Dallas officers last week.
“Never in my career,” he said.
Lawson told NBC10 many of the items donated to his department will be donated back to the community for people he believes need them more than they do.
Hatfield Police Chief William Tierney told NBC10 his department received similar support from their community.
“The words that people use, they use adjectives that really are heartfelt,” he said. “The messages are really deep and I think they really reach the officers on the department.”
Chief Tierney also acknowledged however that more work needs to be done.
“I don’t think any community is immune to any type of racial divide,” he said. “But I think our department is very well educated and that we work every day to communicate with people of all races. We as police must be kind and respectful to everyone. It’s going to make a difference.”