By Karl Vick
The events of the last 72 hours have officers across the country struggling to find their footing
Police are trained to deal with fast-moving situations. But the events of the last 72 hours—first the surging uproar over the shooting deaths of young black men by officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, then the assassination of five officers in Dallas—have officers across the country struggling to find their footing in a place none of us has quite been before.
“It’s a weird haze over all of us. It’s bizarre,” says Capt. Joe Bologna, who oversees policing in the 19th District of Philadelphia, a largely poor and African-American precinct in the city’s west side. The 19th was where I spent a few weeks a year ago, reporting the TIME cover story: “What It’s Like To Be A Cop In America.” The one-word answer at the time, a year after Ferguson, Mo., was “harder.” On Friday, a second word applied: “strange.” The Dallas attack on officers while guarding an anti-violence march critical of police had added a disorienting new layer to everything. The next morning, the Philadelphia department suspended single patrols; every officer goes out with a partner, no exceptions.
“It gives them somebody to talk to in the car, just to express their thoughts or something,” says Bologna. “We don’t want them solitary in the car, things just running through their minds. It’s good to have a partner. It just helps them get over it. You internalize that, it ain’t good.”
“We want to make a difference. And all this other stuff clouds all that. And I don’t want these guys to think what they do doesn’t matter; because it does. They change people’s lives.”