Police officials on Long Island said they’ve taken extra precautions to guard against “unprovoked attacks” on cops in light of the recent slayings in Dallas and Baton Rouge.
The decision to exercise more vigilance in Nassau and Suffolk counties comes after eight cops were killed in 10 days by two black men with military backgrounds. Both suspects were reportedly aggravated by fatal shootings of African Americans at the hands of the police.
Eight cops killed
The latest tragedy came Sunday, when a former U.S. Marine identified as Gavin Long gunned down three cops in Baton Rouge, La., in what authorities there have described as an “ambush.”
Ten days earlier, a lone sniper gunned down five police officers in Dallas during a protest condemning the deaths of two black men at the hands of cops. The nation had just come to grips with the murder of the five officers when another American urban street was turned into a site of carnage and heartbreak.
Both attackers were killed in subsequent confrontations with authorities.
“These brave officers who pledged to serve and protect were gunned down by cowardly individuals,” said Nassau County Police Chief of Department Steven Skrynecki during a hastily arranged memorial for the fallen officers held Monday morning outside police headquarters in Mineola.
Nassau, Suffolk police institute added precautions after cop deaths
Nassau County police said officers would patrol in pairs as the department continues to collaborate with federal and local authorities to assess the local threat level.
“The Nassau County Police Department is taking all steps necessary to ensure the safety of the public and its police officers,” the department said in a statement. “There will be intensified patrols in areas of mass transit, public gatherings, and near critical infrastructure. Social media outlets will be intensely monitored, and we request the public’s assistance in any way possible to stop threats to public safety.”
Suffolk County Police Department was less specific about how the latest slayings would impact their police work, but the department did state that “Additional measures were immediately implemented after this attack to ensure the safety of our police officers and the citizens of Suffolk County.”
Officials in Suffolk also noted that the police department is working in concert with federal authorities, and is receiving updates on the attacks.
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and his counterpart in Suffolk, Steve Bellone, ordered all flags to fly at half-staff.
The intense divide rippling through communities across America spilled into the public consciousness after video footage earlier this month appeared to show a Louisiana man named Alton Sterling being fatally shot after he was already pinned down by police officers. The following day, an officer in Minnesota fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop—its aftermath was posted live on Facebook by the victim’s distraught fiancé, who was in the car with Castile at the time of the shooting.
The killings sparked days of intense protests across the country. They also reopened fresh wounds, as an already divided America has been forced to confront an uptick in these deadly tragedies.
Honoring the fallen
Outside Nassau County police headquarters on Monday, several dozen officers stood silent as a police officer played “Taps” in honor of the fallen.
The police department laid a wreath near its own memorial dedicated to Nassau police officers killed in the line of duty.
Several officers in SWAT gear stood sentry atop the building with their eyes trained on the proceedings below. Their presence was perhaps the most telling example of how police are not leaving anything to chance during this intense period.
The tone of the memorial was both solemn and disgruntled, as each person who came to the podium said police officers deserve more support.
“Next time you see a police officer, please shake their hands,” a local rabbi said.
Deputy Nassau County Executive Rob Walker said he refused to consider a world where police officers were restricted from properly doing their jobs.
“I don’t know what society would become,” he said.
Even as Skrynecki showed disdain for the “cowardly” gunmen who claimed eight police lives in Dallas and Baton Rouge, he sought to present a unifying tone.
“We must be careful not to pit ourselves against the communities that we serve,” he said.
James Carver, president of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association, was more bullish.
“We saw hate spread even more,” Carver said of the recent shooting. He then went on to lament what he perceives to be insufficient support for police among America’s leaders, including the White House.
“We deserve the benefit of the doubt, which we have not gotten from the top of the country,” Carver said.
Obama’s remarks not ‘strong enough’
For the second time in the course of 10 days President Barack Obama was called upon to try to heal a grieving nation.
“We as a nation have to be loud and clear that nothing justifies violence against law enforcement,” he said Sunday at the White House. “Attacks on police are an attack on all of us, and the rule of law that makes society possible.”
“Five days ago, I traveled to Dallas for the memorial service of the officers who were slain there. I said that that killer would not be the last person who tries to make us turn on each other,” Obama added. “Nor will today’s killer. It remains up to us to make sure that they fail. That decision is all of ours. The decision to make sure that our best selves are reflected across America, not our worst—that’s up to us.”
Carver was not impressed with Obama’s remarks.
“I don’t think it was strong enough, because then the president proceeded to talk about how we all must get along,” Carver said.
“Cops’ lives aren’t more important than anybody else, but cops’ lives are very important, because we’re out there protecting everybody when they’re home sleeping, when they’re working,” he said.
“The cop’s job isn’t to get shot first or anything,” Carver continued. “When he confronts a criminal, you know what the criminal is thinking? The criminal is thinking, ‘How do I get away? How can I sit there and beat up this cop and do something to this cop so I can get away and get home to my family?’
“So, our police officers, yeah, they’re trained to sit there and be able to defend themselves and take appropriate action,” Carver said. “Remember, police don’t escalate. The criminals escalate.”
Nassau PBA, along with two other local police unions, will hold a fundraiser at Mulcahy’s in Wantagh Monday for the fallen officers’ families in Dallas and Baton Rouge. All the proceeds will be divided among the survivors.