Facing charges of anti-cop rhetoric during a tumultuous two-week period that saw the shooting deaths of two Black men at the hands of police, followed by two mass shootings of police officers, President Barack Obama directly addressed American law enforcement officials Monday.
In an open letter released by the White House Tuesday, the president assured the community of his appreciation for the daily sacrifices made in the line of duty.
“Every day, you confront danger so it does not find our families, carry burdens so they do not fall to us, and courageously meet test after test to keep us safe,” he began, then highlighted the “good deed” of one fallen Dallas officer, who bought dinner for a homeless man the night before his death.
“Time and again, you make the split-second decisions that could mean life or death for you and many others in harm’s way. You endure the tense minutes and long hours over lifetimes of service.”
Obama told officers the American public sees their acts of “valor” and shares in their pain following the events in Dallas and Baton Rouge.
“We recognize it, we respect it, we appreciate it, and we depend on you,” he wrote. “And just as your tight-knit law enforcement family feels the recent losses to your core, our Nation grieves alongside you. Any attack on police is an unjustified attack on all of us.”
The Commander-in-Chief also called out those who have used the recent tragedies to exacerbate tensions between police and local residents.
“I reject those efforts, for they do not reflect the reality of our Nation,” he said, referencing slain African-American cop Montrell Jackson, who was shot and killed in the Louisiana capital Sunday.
“[He] knew this too, when just days ago he asked us to keep hatred from our hearts. Instead, he offered — to protestors and fellow police officers alike — a hug to anyone who saw him on the street.”
He concluded by urging all sides affected by the civil unrest to join forces for the greater good of the country.
“As we bind up our wounds, we must come together to ensure that those who try to divide us do not succeed. We are at our best when we recognize our common humanity, set an example for our children of trust and responsibility, and honor the sacrifices of our bravest by coming together to be better.
Thank you for your courageous service. We have your backs.”
Critics have accused the president of failing to express clear support for police in his remarks on Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was especially combative at ABC’s town hall on race last Thursday, as he questioned whether police officers feel “in their heart” that the president is doing all he can to protect their lives.
“I would ask you to consider being careful when there is an incident of not being too quick to condemn the police without due process and until the facts are known,” he told Obama.
The White House said the National Fraternal Order of Police shared the letter on its Facebook page with a statement.
“The reason this letter has value is that we want and deserve to change the National Dialogue. The people of this country respect law enforcement. Now we continue to speak out about the issues that have helped create disconnects with members of the communities to work so hard to protect.
We can and do provide the best quality law enforcement that we can but we cannot be held responsible for the social issues such as poverty, lack of mental health services, unemployment, and abject poverty. The work now is to assist our communities by continuing to recognize that we are but one spoke in the wheel and we will do our part. Now it’s time for politicians and government to assist us in working in the communities we have always worked in to make life better for all Americans.”