Fayette County

Lexington police honor Dallas officers; leaders say tough talks needed

Lexington police, city officials honor victims of Dallas attack

Lexington police, Mayor Jim Gray and local NAACP President William Saunders held a moment of silence Friday for officers killed in Thursday night's shooting in Dallas.
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Lexington police, Mayor Jim Gray and local NAACP President William Saunders held a moment of silence Friday for officers killed in Thursday night's shooting in Dallas.

After Lexington police demonstrated their support Friday for slain and wounded Dallas officers ambushed during a protest, city leaders said courageous conversations would be necessary to move forward.

At 11:45 a.m., police and city leaders gathered outside the police department, and officers throughout the city pulled off roads with lights flashing.

“In response and reflection for the very recent tragedy in Dallas, we ask all able units to assist us in a moment of silence by exiting the roadway and activating your emergency lights,” a dispatcher said over the scanner. When the moment of silence was over, she transmitted again. “We appreciate your service to our community. Take care of each other; as always, stay safe.”

Other agencies around Kentucky also held moments of silence and reaffirmed their commitment to serving everyone in their communities.

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, Lexington-Fayette NAACP president William Saunders and Police Chief Mark Barnard each spoke of the Dallas attack’s impact on Lexington.

We have to have courageous conversations. If you’re not willing to openly discuss those issues, you can never come to some type of agreement or understanding.

Lexington Police Chief Mark Barnard

“Citizens in our city may have heard the Dallas police chief just this morning, and he said it so well for his own city and for America when he said, ‘We’re hurting,’ and we are hurting,” Gray said. “We’re hurting across America. The senseless acts of violence hurt all of us.”

Saunders said Lexington isn’t immune to the problems that have occurred elsewhere. The Dallas officers were shot Thursday night during a march held after the fatal shootings of two black men — Philando Castile and Alton Sterling — in encounters with police in Minnesota and Louisiana.

“Right now we have a lot of friction,” Saunders said. “Our people are past frustration.”

Saunders said Lexington has been working to prevent the violence similar to what is occurring elsewhere.

“Our communication is pretty good; we’re in a good place now. We’re just not reacting because things are happening. We’ve already been at the table, ... so that makes it a lot easier.”

Any time there is a problem, Saunders said, people should go to the NAACP office at 1510 Newtown Pike or call 859-252-7336.

“We’re coming to the table and talking,” Saunders said. “The issues we’re dealing with are not easy; they’re difficult. They are going to rub people the wrong way, but we are going to be here to hold the whole community accountable, not just the police department.”

Barnard said the Dallas shootings added to what has been a difficult week for law enforcement in Lexington. A firefighter and a recently retired police detective died Wednesday of cancer.

“For us, our agency as well as the fire department, we’ve experienced a loss in our community with one of our officers and one of their firefighters and then to experience what we have in Dallas is another blow,” Barnard said.

Police and residents will have to work to find solutions to problems that are also happening around the country, Barnard said.

“We have to have courageous conversations,” Barnard said. “If you’re not willing to openly discuss those issues, you can never come to some type of agreement or understanding.”

As the nation works through tensions, Lexington police will continue to work for the city, Barnard said.

“We will suffer along with other law enforcement communities, but we will do our jobs,” Barnard said. “We’ll respond to the people that need us.”

Other departments shared similar concerns and ideas for resolutions. Frankfort Police Chief Jeff Abrams wrote a letter to the mayor and city commission addressing the events in Dallas. In addition to assuring that Frankfort police would continue to serve everyone “regardless of race, sex, orientation, etc.,” Abrams wrote that the department is mourning the deaths of the men in Louisiana and Minnesota who were shot by police and the Dallas police officers.

“That being said, our officers, like all others in our nation, are vigilant to the current increase in propensity for violence toward officers,” Abrams wrote. “Just yesterday we received information that a local man was threatening to kill a police officer via Facebook. We will continue to work with other agencies ... to equip our officers with the best and most timely intelligence available.”

Full text of Frankfort Police Chief Jeff Abrams’ letter addressing events in Dallas:

Mayor and Commission,

I wanted to reach out to you in light of the horrific events that occurred last night in Dallas. As you know, this national debate and issue has been building for quite some time. While we mourn the loss of the officers, we also mourn the untimely and unfortunate deaths of the men in Louisiana and Minnesota as well, regardless of whether or not they are found to be justifiable.

As you know, I, my command staff, and the entire department have been, and will continue to provide a level of service to all members of our community in such a way that illustrates our commitment to fair and equitable service regardless of race, sex, orientation, etc.

That being said, our officers, like all others in our nation, are vigilant to the current increase in propensity for violence toward officers. Just yesterday we received information that a local man was threatening to kill a police officer via Facebook. We will continue to work with other agencies, including the State Fusion Center to equip our officers with the best and most timely intelligence available.

As always, we appreciate the support of you, our leaders, and we press on with providing the highest level of service to our community.

Sincerely,

Jeff Abrams

Chief of Police

Frankfort Police Department

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