Police departments across the United States are searching for new tactics for a more difficult era of racial tension, increasingly lethal mass shootings and global terrorism.
After last week’s killing of five officers in Dallas, the deadliest assault on U.S. law enforcement since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, nearly half of America’s 30 biggest cities have issued directives to pair up police officers on calls to boost safety, according to a Reuters survey of police departments.
And one, Indianapolis, said it would consider the use of robots to deliberately deliver lethal force, an unprecedented tactic until Thursday when the Dallas police department used a military-grade robot to deliver and detonate explosives where the shooter was holed up.
While a wave of anti-police protests since the 2014 killing of an unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Missouri, has revived memories of 1960s protests over civil rights and the Vietnam War, Thursday’s shooting marked something different: a willingness to take up arms against police.
Ambushes against police on Thursday and Friday in Tennessee, Georgia and Missouri added to a sense of being under siege and vulnerable at a time when many departments already were grappling with heightened community suspicion over the use of deadly force.
Responding to the Dallas shooting, Denver’s police union wants officers to wear riot gear for local protests and to be armed with AR-15 assault rifles while patrolling Denver International Airport, the union said in a letter to the mayor published in The Denver Post.
The most immediate change is the pairing up of officers. Thirteen of the country’s 30 biggest city police department said they are pairing up officers – a change that could strain already thinly staffed police ranks in some regions.
(The 13 are New York City, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Indianapolis, Seattle, Memphis, Boston and Portland.)