By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUn
LACONIA — "It's not a good day," said Belknap County Sheriff Craig Wiggin. "It's disturbing. I'm disgusted, angry and sad."
Wiggin was responding to the killing of five police officers and the wounding of seven others by a hail of gunfire that fell on the streets of Dallas, Texas Thursday night.
Wiggin said that he was most distressed by "the rapid rush to judge the police, the actions of the officer, before all the circumstances and facts are known. Police officers," he continued, "are human beings. They are fallible. They can make mistakes. But, that doesn't necessarily mean they are bad or racist. We are disgusted when an officer does something wrong," Wiggin went on, "and get rid of him as quickly as we can. I've done it." On the other hand, "sometimes honest mistakes happen," he said.
"The comments of public officials, including President Obama," Wiggin said, "are not very helpful." He said that the governor Minnesota had no reason to claim Philando Castile, who was shot by a police officer this week, would have not been shot had he not been black. "These kinds of statements embolden people," he said, "and more and more people are being drawn out."
Wiggin suggested that the vilification of the police arose from "something bigger going on here, " referring to "underlying problems like poverty, broken homes, poor housing that have nothing to do with the police." Police officers, he said, "have become convenient scapegoats. It's very disappointing and it needs to stop. We need to get serious. It's out of control."
In Gilford, Chief Anthony Bean Burpee sent an e-mail titled "recent events" and marked importance "high" to all members of his department. He said he felt "obligated to acknowledge the atrocity, rather than stay silent, and to say something collectively to you all."
"Such deliberate attacks on police by individuals," the chief wrote, are "unspeakable." Recalling a recent training event, he said one speaker addressed the concept of "What's Important Now," or WIN, and posed the question for the Gilford Police Department. "We must continue in our pursuit of excellence," he wrote. "We must continue to stay hungry and humble. We must continue to treat others with respect. We must continue spending time making ourselves better rather than making ourselves look good." In closing, he advised his officers to "Be cognizant of your surroundings, be vigilant and be safe!!!"
Laconia Police Chief Chris Adams said that the tragedy in Dallas had an impact on the officers of his department. "It's just very upsetting," he said. At the same time, he said that the department received a number of emails expressing support for its officers while one unnamed person had pizza delivered to the station. Adams said when he was stopped at a traffic light, a mother and daughter in the car alongside him gave him a thumbs up.
Referring to the department's long standing commitment to community policing, Adams said "we will continue to act as we have for many years. It has worked for us and it has worked for the community." At the same time, he said the department will continue to place heavy emphasis on officer safety and proper tactics, stressing that the incidents that capture the headlines and breed distrust of the police often stem from insufficient training and inappropriate tactics. "It's a combination of proper training of officers and a strong relationship with the community," he said.
"We live in a bit of a bubble up here," Wiggin remarked, explaining that police departments are integrated into their communities. What happened in Dallas, he said "is foreign to us." But, he cautioned "We're not immune. There are people who hate the police."
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