Dallas Mayor Reflects on City One Year After Police Shootings

Mayor Mike Rawlings discusses changes within the city since the shootings that killed five officers on July 7, 2016

A lot has changed in the city of Dallas since the July 7, 2016, police shootings, Mayor Mike Rawlings says.

He's spent the last year trying to create unity in the community, while dealing with a massive pension crisis that divided the police force and says the images from last year's tragic event stir up emotion very few see.

"I'm not a person to do a lot of reflecting. I get into an issue, solve it and move on, so this gives me a chance to reflect and see some of the photographs, hear some of the speeches that were made, and I well up in emotion, because I didn't have the time or the luxury to be emotional during that," Rawlings said.

As the highest elected official in the city, his task was to lead Dallas through the shock and grief after five police officers were killed in the ambush attack downtown.

He met with families of the fallen and spoke at a nationally televised memorial service, during what he calls a pivotal time not just for the city, but for our nation.

"What we showed the world at that memorial service was something special, and it helped America go through this," he said.

Rawlings said the shootings called on Dallas and its residents to "think before we talk, try to de-escalate versus escalate and put together programs that bring the city come together."

In January 2017, the city launched "Year Of Unity," a series of community events and partnerships, meant to bridge cultural divides.

More changes can be found within the walls of the Dallas Police Department.

After former police chief David Brown's powerful call to action to recruit new cadets, applications to become Dallas police officers immediately soared by almost 250 percent.

Since then, officers have left in large numbers because of a pension crisis.

"We have serious issues in our police department that we have to take care of," Rawlings said. "The pension issue is one of them, and that's why I worked the last nine months, really, all fall and spring, to resolve that. We have a pension now that now officers don't have a reason to leave because they're not sure they have retirement, so we've taken care of that."

"The other issue, and it's a much more serious issue, is that we don't create a great environment where people want to be police officers anymore. Whether it's the media, the politicians or the activists or the neighborhood folks, the police officers aren't respected like they used to be," Rawlings said.

As the July 7 anniversary approaches, he says the focus is on the families left behind. He bonded with some of them during a trip to Dallas Cowboys training camp last summer in Oxnard, California.

"These families will always have a great wound and a deep scar, and these children will always not have their father, but I sense from them that they realize they're part of a bigger story. And I think they're strong people, so I hope they take, with that scar, a badge of honor, because that's what they've earned," Rawlings said.

The mayor says he still on occasion talks with former chief Brown, who now lives in New York City and recently authored a book.

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