A string of incidents nationwide this week has police and elected officials in Springfield concerned, Mayor Warren Copeland said.
The Springfield Police Division has taken steps in the past several years to build bridges with members of the community and has educated officers on how to de-escalate tense situations with members of the public. But Copeland’s not sure what can be done in situations like Thursday’s attack.
A peaceful protest in Dallas, intended to raise concerns about police shootings that led to the deaths of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota this week, ended in tragedy.
“I’d like to think we’re in much better shape than many communities in terms of what’s been happening,” Copeland said. “But this is the kind of thing that scares the police chief and it certainly scares me all the time that anything like this might happen here. It’s something you have to continually work on and we need to keep doing it.”
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“Anyone who knows exactly what the future holds in these situations is kidding themselves,” Copeland said.
Springfield police officers have tried to be more active in the community, but even then there are no guarantees.
“I think we’re doing everything right,” Copeland said. “But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen here.”
Changes in technology have also altered interactions between police and residents. The use of body cameras in law enforcement has increased nationally, and cell phones can now take video that wasn’t available years ago.
That has brought more attention to instances of violence between police officers and residents nationally, Copeland said.
“Whatever happens now, we tend to hear about it all over the country whereas in the past everybody didn’t have a camera in their hand,” he said.
Copeland also said he’s concerned about the availability of handguns in the community, which he said can put law enforcement officials on edge.
“In the situation we’re in now it’s hard to be hopeful,” Copeland said. “But the hopeful thing is that with this getting so much attention it will lead to police departments to continue to do a better job of first selecting officers, and second training them.”
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