- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Police departments across the country are taking extra precautions, such as deploying officers in pairs on the streets and increasing staffing, as cops remain on edge a week after a gunman killed five police officers and wounded nine others in Dallas.

From New York City to Austin, Texas, law enforcement agencies have reported a series of social media threats against officers, multiple lawsuits were filed Wednesday, and a fresh round of demonstrations took place.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police defended heavy-handed tactics during a weekend rally, announcing that they had uncovered a plot to harm officers ahead of the protests.

“Cops now after Dallas are certainly on edge a little bit,” said Chief Thomas Manger, president of the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association and head of the Montgomery County Police Department in Maryland. “They are concerned this is a trend where officers are going to be targeted.”

Texas leads the country in the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reports that the names of 1,682 Texas officers have been inscribed on the memorial in the nation’s capital.

Including the five Dallas officers killed in the July 7 shooting, 11 of this year’s 60 police fatalities have occurred in Texas.

Given the statistics, the possibility that an officer might not return home from a shift weighs particularly heavy on the minds of those who work in law enforcement in the Lone Star State, said Charley Wilkison, executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas.

“Officers in Texas are always aware they are facing that and their families are facing that,” Mr. Wilkison said.

In the Dallas shooting, 25-year-old Army veteran Micah Xavier Johnson opened fire on police officers as hundreds gathered to protest earlier fatal police-involved shootings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and St. Paul, Minnesota. Five officers — Michael Smith, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa — were killed and nine officers and two civilians were injured in the attack. Before he was killed by police, Johnson told negotiators that he sought to kill white officers.

Despite the targeted attack and the emergence of additional threats against police, officers across Texas have reported to work with “a determination to solider on,” Mr. Wilkison said.

But one request Mr. Wilkison said he has heard repeatedly from officers is for more simulation training for active-shooter scenarios.

D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said the Dallas attack has raised anxiety among police and the community because it is a reminder that good community ties can’t guarantee no attacks.

“That one individual who decided to shoot police officers was not attacking the Dallas Police Department because of a lack of community relationships,” Chief Lanier said Tuesday. “We all realize that as hard as we work and as engaged as we are and as supportive as our community is, if there is someone who decides they want to take action like was taken in Dallas, it could be taken anywhere.”

Shortly after the shootings, many police departments announced immediate steps to promote officers’ safety that remain in effect indefinitely. In cities such as St. Louis, New York, Los Angeles and Washington, police officers began patrolling in pairs.

Even before police in Austin were named as targets in a threat made on Twitter, which warned that police officers would be shot at 11 p.m. Wednesday along a busy nightlife corridor, Police Chief Art Acevedo declared a staffing emergency. The move cleared the way for the department to require officers to work overtime for the next two weeks for the first time in nearly a decade.

Assessing the threat made to Austin officers, Assistant Police Chief Brian Manley said Wednesday that investigators “have no reason to give any validity to this threat.”

“We are still taking this very seriously in the current climate of policing across the country, the tragic events that took place in Dallas this past week, and a lot of the rhetoric that’s taking place on the national level,” he said.

New York police reported the day after the Dallas attack that investigators were tracking 17 individual threats against the department. Officials declined Wednesday to say whether those threats had been ruled out or to put a figure on the number of additional threats received, but they said the department was continuing “to assess any threats made to officers.”

Baton Rouge police pointed to threats of a plot to target officers during a weekend protest as the reason for their deployment of heavy-handed tactics to break up and arrest scores of demonstrators. Authorities said four men broke into a pawnshop and stole eight handguns that they planned to use to harm police officers during the weekend protests.

“We have been questioned repeatedly over the last several days about our show of force and why we have the tactics that we have. Well, this is the reason, because we had credible threats against the lives of law enforcement in this city,” Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie said Tuesday.

Nevertheless, the American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday filed a lawsuit accusing Baton Rouge police of using excessive force to break up the protests and wrongfully arresting dozens who were peacefully assembled.

Separately, the family of Greg Gunn, an Alabama black man killed this year by a Montgomery police officer, filed a federal lawsuit against the city and the officer. The lawsuit accuses the city of failing to train Officer Aaron Smith properly and claims the officer had no justification even to stop Gunn, much less shoot him.

The demonstrations showed no signs of letting up in Minnesota, where more than 40 people were arrested for blocking morning rush-hour traffic on Interstate 35W in St. Paul. An earlier round of demonstrations there resulted in Molotov-cocktail and rock attacks on police that injured 21 officers.

• Andrea Noble can be reached at anoble@washingtontimes.com.

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