Md. police chiefs, county executives respond in wake of Dallas shootings

WASHINGTON — Following the deadliest incident for law enforcement since the 2001 terrorist attacks, local police chiefs and county executives are looking at how to handle similar situations in their communities.

The sniper slayings of five officers during a protest in Dallas Thursday evening hits close to home for Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski, who lost one of his officers earlier this year. In a March attack, an officer was shot and killed outside of the Prince George’s County Police Department’s District II station in Landover, Maryland.

“It is a very difficult position and certainly I think [Dallas Police Chief David Brown] is doing a more than admirable job of a tragedy of the same magnitude that we dealt with in Prince George’s County,” Stawinski said on WTOP.

When it comes to the emotional aspect of these situations, Stawinski said it’s important that Dallas understand the feelings and questions of families and surrounding communities as well as the officers in the field.

“Obviously my concern is not just for those officers in that department, but for the families who right now are thrown into doubt about what their loved ones are facing on the streets across the nation and they’re often overlooked in this,” he said.

Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger came back from his vacation early to remind his more than 1,200 sworn officers of their mission and inspire them when moving forward in the community.

“Just to remind them they knew that it had risks when they took the job,” Manger said. “We can’t let an incident like this dampen our resolve to continue to work to keep our community safe, to protect people’s constitutional rights, to really keep our democratic principles strong.”

The county executives in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties released statements the day following the Dallas shootings, ensuring their respective communities that relationships between officers and the community are crucial to harboring peace.

“We must go the extra mile to ensure that the trust between our police and our citizens is not washed away,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III in a statement.

He commented on two other police involved shootings earlier this week and how they’re working with their force and community to avoid similar situations.

“We, as the Prince George’s County government, remain vigilant to recruit, train, and invest in the best people and practices so that tragedies like we have seen this week in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis do not occur here,” he said.

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett’s released a statement Friday commenting on protests and the role of police officers in ensuring everyone has their voice heard.

“The officers murdered in Dallas were on duty in connection with a peaceful protest and, in the end, sought to shield protesters as well as themselves against the deadly hail of gunfire,” Leggett’s statement read. “Violence is the problem, not the solution. It wasn’t in Ferguson. It wasn’t in Baltimore. It isn’t anywhere else, either.”

Chief Stawinski said he continues to work with Bob Ross, president of the Prince George’s County chapter of the NAACP, on building credibility and answering questions on how best to deal with the recent news locally.

“Because we talk about the small things that don’t garner attention in the media, we know that we are reliable reporters to one another and that the information that we pass on is passed on faithfully to the constituencies that we represent,” Stawinkski said.

“So, when a critical incident does occur, we have not just the ability to talk and dialogue but we have credibility with one another and we’re able to make a bridge between the views and we offer that information to resolve conflicts and we prevent things from getting out of control,” he said.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report from Washington.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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