Published in the July 12, 2016 edition

By MARK SARDELLA

WAKEFIELD — The unprovoked sniper attack that left five Dallas policemen dead and seven more injured has had a jarring emotional impact on police departments everywhere, including right here in Wakefield.

“There are not enough words to express my sadness, horror, disgust and outrage over the execution of five dedicated first responders who were murdered in Dallas,” Wakefield Police Chief Rick Smith said. “Each one of those officers left their families fully intending to complete their shifts and return to their loved ones at the end of the night. Instead, they were shot dead by a hidden coward who expressed his own racial hatred toward white police officers who were just doing their jobs.”

A letter from Chief Smith appears in today’s Item Forum.

“Those officers were assigned to protect the active protesters and did so without hate or bias but were still murdered in cold blood,” Smith told the Item in the wake of the shootings. “Where is the outrage?”

The Dallas policemen were executed in an apparently well-planned attack by a former Army reservist named Micah Johnson, s self-described black militant who during a standoff following the shootings admitted to police that he wanted to kill white policemen. Johnson was subsequently killed by a bomb deployed by a Dallas Police tactical robot.

Dallas Police were out in force last Thursday night to cover a protest over recent fatal shootings of black men by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana. Investigations into those killings are underway but have not been completed.

Smith decried the rush to judgment that followed those two incidents and may have contributed to the killings in Dallas.

“Public statements by anyone that presuppose guilt or inflame public opinion serve no useful purpose,” Smith said.

“Those officers were there to act as guardians and to protect the protestors,” Smith stressed. “Law enforcement officers put their lives in harm’s way on a daily basis, to protect our freedom and democracy, confront crime and ensure the safety of our communities. They do this because they took an oath to safeguard their fellow citizens. They believe in that oath and they feel an allegiance to and pride for the citizens they protect and the communities they serve. Law enforcement officers, like the people they protect, are fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, daughters and sons.”

Smith said that he has been meeting with his officers at each roll call since the Dallas shootings.

He has also been reading to them a message written by Kenyon, Minn. Police Chief Lee Sjolander to police officers everywhere in the wake of two high-profile officer-involved shootings and Thursday’s attack in Dallas. Sjolander addressed officers nationwide as he were their chief. The message has gone viral.

“Yes, we are all sharing in some dark times right now,” Sjolander wrote. “But, we still expect you to be brilliant at the basics and do your job to the best of your abilities. …

“I expect you to patrol your areas with a smile on your face, kindness in your heart, calmness in your soul and a wave to those you see.

“I expect you to get out of your patrol car and visit. I want you to listen to the compliments, the concerns, take them all in, and remember, it’s not ‘us vs. them.’

“I expect you to show others that we are better than these tragedies and we are striving to be better in so many ways.

“I expect you to be safe at work and at home. I hope you visit with your family openly about the current state of our nation and how if we give into fear, violence, propaganda, etc. we will not be part of the solution.

“If you or another member of our public service family is struggling, I expect you to get help and I expect you to help others. I promise you, there is no shame in seeking help and being well.

“I, as well as so many others are here for you. If you need me, I will be just a phone call or radio call away.”

Smith said that he and the entire Wakefield Police Department have been deeply moved by the outpouring of support that they have received from the people of Wakefield since last Thursday’s devastating events in Dallas.

“The community has overwhelmed us with kindness over the weekend,” Smith said, “and we are forever grateful.”