The First Rule of Policing And Five Dead Cops In Dallas

There is nothing inconsistent about mourning the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, while simultaneously mourning the murders of five Dallas cops and wounding of another six, who might have died but for where the bullets happened to strike.  The reasons behind these deaths are very different, yet inextricably related. The irony is undeniable, as the front page of the New York Times juxtaposes the competing tragedies.*


In its editorial, it asks When Will The Killing Stop?

Videos of two fatal shootings of African-American men have again documented what appear to be almost casual killing by the police. They prompt the deepest shock at what the nation has witnessed over and over again: a chance encounter with the police and an innocent black life ended.

And the killing of five Dallas police officers is, perhaps, the one thing that will assure that the killing won’t stop today. This was, according to Dallas Police Chief David Brown, a coordinated effort by four shooters.

The police believe four suspects coordinated the attack with rifles, Police Chief David O. Brown said, and positioned themselves in triangulated locations near the end of the route the protesters planned to take.

To their remarkable credit, Dallas police haven’t pulled a Hickman, rushing to blame what best serves their agenda. They have demonstrated restraint and intelligence at a time when they would be just as entitled to fury at what happened to their officers as BLM protesters are.

Although the shooting occurred during a rally to protest police-involved shootings, it was unclear what relationship the gunmen had to the demonstration.

It was unknown what the motives were, “except they fired on the police,” said Clay Jenkins, the Dallas County judge and the county’s chief executive.

The motivation behind this attack hasn’t been established, but only the most obtuse will have any doubt that this was a deliberate attack on police, used in the most generic sense, born of anger, outrage and monumental stupidity. Four people decided it was time to go to war with police, to murder them for being police, and so they made a decision that will impact everyone.

While the actions of these four shooters should not, from a detached and intelligent perspective, reflect on anyone else, they will.  This wasn’t the decision of the amorphous organic Black Lives Matter movement, even though it will be viewed this way. Cop demagogues will use this to condemn the movement, to prove they deserve to be treated like animals, to die. This will reinforce the First Rule of Policing, because these eleven officers did nothing to deserve a bullet in their body.

But neither did Alton Sterling? Philando Castile? What about Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley? And even though Eric Garner didn’t die by police bullet, he’s dead nonetheless. We’re all familiar with this rationalization. We used it effectively in third grade, when we cried, “but they started it” or “they did it too.”  Our teachers, our mothers, responded with two wrongs don’t make a right, and yet that simple lesson eludes some.

The angry rhetoric toward cops, toward racism, isn’t to blame. That four people chose to react by killing cops reflects their peculiar twisted mindset, not that of anyone else. No anger compels another person to kill if he’s not so inclined by the voices inside his own head. And yet, expect this to be the headlines of pro-police pundits today. Except this to be the reaction in the hearts and minds of cops across the nation. Not all, but many. Most.

Cops don’t want to die on the job.  There is a reason I keep harping on the First Rule of Policing, make it home for dinner. The corollary slogan is that it’s better to be judged by twelve than carried by six, particularly when they aren’t judged too harshly. And so cops will keep shooting as long as they feel threatened. And they feel increasingly threatened, and increasingly less tolerant of risk to their safety.  Five dead cops in Dallas just validated their feelings.

We have become a society of unduly sensitive people. Not just those who find micro-aggressions in every benign statement, but who walk the streets with a shield and a sense that they are not receiving the respect they desire, they deserve. The narrative is that we need to have discussions about our differences, but it’s a lie. Everyone wants to lecture, to chastise, those who disagree. Discussion suggests listening, understanding.

There is no interest in this. The only interest is in telling those who don’t feel as you do that they are wrong, and that they will change their feelings to match yours. Even very intelligent people have forsaken reason for emotion, dirtying up our national mindset by confirming the feelings of the most passionate. We escalate anger, and then justify it by confirmed bias.

Today is a day for grownups to talk the children off the ledge. These four shooters in Dallas do not reflect the Black Lives Matters movement, and any screaming that it proves anything is absurd.  At the same time, there is no justification for the murder of these Dallas cops. The deaths of black men at the hands of police does not mean killing random cops is a legitimate response. Ever.

A concept that has been raised is that we now live in a fact-free democracy, where feelings have replaced facts and reason to guide our actions.  This is what comes of your “passion,” death. The toxic mix of passion, anger, self-righteousness and ignorance will solve nothing. As the New York Times asked, when will the killings stop?  They will stop when we stop indulging our base instinct to do as we feel instead of as we think. If we can’t get past our indulgence of mindless, simplistic emotional indulgence, the number of dead bodies will continue to grow.

*The New York tabloid paper, The Daily News, switched front pages from its original choice to its new choice after the Dallas shootings occurred.


The other New York tabloid, The Post, went with this front page:


21 thoughts on “The First Rule of Policing And Five Dead Cops In Dallas

  1. Bl2r

    “These four shooters in Dallas do not reflect the Black Lives Matters movement, and any screaming that it proves anything is absurd.”

    I notice you did not state the converse; that a cop shooting an innocent civilian does not say anything about cops at large.

    1. rob

      No, but cops bending over backwards to never place any blame on another cop, no matter how egregious the behavior, says a lot about cops at large. The chickens are coming home to roost.

      1. SHG Post author

        That was what Malcolm X said when JFK was assassinated, that the “chickens were coming home to roost.” It’s as wrong to oversimplify the cultural failings in law enforcement as it is rely on moral equivalencies.

  2. Jonathan Levy

    May be off topic but it’s ironic that cell phone videos are providing more facts about police shootings even as they turn off reason because the visual arouses so much emotion. Meanwhile people who hold on to their faculties are scared to act like adults for fear of finding themselves in a social media sihit-storm.

    1. SHG Post author

      Not really off topic. Much of this is born of the existence of evidence to support claims that have been made forever, but rejected or ignored for lack of evidence. But it also gives rise to the frailties of evidence, both in its ability to convey an accurate state of reality and in its interpretation through the grasp and bias of viewers. We have more evidence with a huge visceral impact, but it doesn’t always answer questions, and sometimes is just as problematic as the lack of evidence.

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  4. Nigel Declan

    The notion that a generation of young people who are intentionally being taught that anything that hurts their feelings is tantamount to assault are becoming the LEO’s charged with defusing dangerous situations is a sobering one.

  5. John Barleycorn

    The main suspect, identified as Micah X. Johnson, 25, was killed by a police-controlled remote explosive device about 45 minutes after authorities began trying to negotiate with him.

    When will the killing stop?

    How long do you figure it will take before that newspaper you read everyday starts serving that question up as a tactical quandary nesteled atop a bed of metaphysical quagmire?

    Would you like any freshly ground pepper with your salad?

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  7. Neil

    There are no pacifist voices here arguing against the first rule of policing. John Yoder did, very directly in his book ‘What would You do’, but he’s obviously not ‘death qualified’ and comes from a strong religious perspective. This kind of double whammy precludes his viewpoints from discussions of policy, and there are consequences of this.
    For example, when the topic of how to argue against the Drug War is broached, one very simple argument is not examined. War is destructive, and peace is what human beings require to thrive.
    Drug warriors do not examine religious traditions regarding war, such as those developed around notions of ‘Just War’. If they did so, they might find that there are circumstances in which they should surrender, despite the tragic price already paid by crack addicted whores.
    But it’s not just the drug warriors who have adopted to a life of struggle, in their efforts to overcome the demon weed. With the War metaphor ascendant, and it’s necessity of an external enemy to overcome, other words loose their meanings. If I am to be judged by the content of my character, one might examine how well I embody the virtue known as Justice. But Justice is no longer known as a personal virtue, instead it is known in flavors such as ‘Social Justice’, where we strive to build a just society without bothering about it for ourselves.
    Talk was always cheap, and with the advent of the internet it is even cheaper. This may tempt us to spend our time engaged in the communications known as ‘virtue signaling’, rather than the more difficult work of living up to our virtues. Justice is a noble goal, and I pray that those that seek it, find it. I just think that many who seek, may find it in an unexpected place.

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