NEW YORK (AP) — Police departments across the country on Friday reacted to the deadly sniper attack on officers in Dallas by taking precautions to guard against copycats and other potential threats.
The most common safety measure for forces that normally allow officers to patrol alone — including Chicago, Las Vegas, Cincinnati and Louisville, Kentucky — was to order them to team up in pairs after word spread that five officers were killed and seven were wounded on Thursday in Dallas during a protest over fatal police shootings of black men.
“It’s a good time to double up in the interest of safety and to give officers the opportunity to talk to one another and decompress,” said Dwight Mitchell, a spokesman for Louisville police.
The directive in Chicago came after officers working overnight there heard dispatchers broadcast a message urging them to “use extreme caution.” Elsewhere, officers were reminded to always wear their bulletproof vests.
Departments in New York; Buffalo; Orlando, Florida, and other cities were the targets of vague, anonymous threats on social media and by telephone. Police in Fayetteville, North Carolina, received more than 60 threats against law enforcement there in less than a day. But, as with other places, none was deemed credible.
In New York, police Commissioner William Bratton huddled behind closed doors with Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio and the police department’s top commanders to discuss how to react to the killings. Pairs of officers were posted in front of the entrances to precinct stations across the city.
The safeguards come amid ongoing protests over the police killings of black men in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, that have shown a potential to turn violent. During a demonstration Thursday night in Oakland, California, protesters blocked a highway, set a fire and broke windows of businesses.
A top police union leader in New York criticized the New York Police Department brass on Friday for not making sure officers were more heavily armed when assigned to the front lines of street protests.
The commanders are “trying to be politically correct at the expense of police officers who are trying to protect the public,” said Ed Mullins, head of the Sergeants Benevolent Association.
While NYPD officials promised a heavy police presence at future protests, de Blasio indicated in a radio interview that there would still be an emphasis on restraint.
“Our officers want protests to be peaceful, and they know that they’re there, under the constitution, to protect the right to protest,” he said.
In Newark, New Jersey, a city engulfed by rioting in the late 1960s, officials expect protests to remain non-violent, said Mayor Ras Baraka, a former high school principal and activist who recalled taking part in many of them over the years.
“People should continue to do what they’ve been doing,” he said. “This is a terrible anomaly, and it should not be repeated, and we want to make sure it isn’t.”
Along with the precautions, there were expressions of sorrow. At NYPD headquarters, officers stood at attention as an American flag was lowered to half-staff to honor the dead Dallas officers.
“It’s a tragic time,” Bratton said. “It’s just so hard to comprehend. What happened to these officers could have happened in any city in the country.”
The Dallas officers were killed, he added, “just because they were wearing the blue uniform.”
The head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association in New York, Patrick Lynch, said his membership was mourning the officers’ deaths and offering support to their families.
“They did nothing to harm anyone but instead were protecting the rights of others to be heard in protest,” Lynch said.
Associated Press writer Ezra Kaplan contributed to this report.