Following last week's shootings in Dallas that left five police officers dead and nine wounded, Tucson Police Chief Christopher Magnus sent a letter to his officers a few days ago.
The letter was shared in Tucson City Councilman Paul Cunningham's weekly newsletter.
Dear TPD Personnel: Over the past several days, you’ve once again given me multiple reasons to be proud of our department. This is not an easy time to be a police officer, although if we’re honest about it, there has never been a time when policing was simple, completely safe, or without its detractors.
What so many members of our community and I appreciate is that despite some very frightening incidents, like the recent shootings in Dallas, you continue to serve the public with courtesy, respect, and kindness.
You understand that it is possible for people to be deeply troubled by—even to protest—certain high profile cases involving the police elsewhere without mistaking these concerns as an indictment or criticism of you personally, or the work you do.
You also realize that the most important part of our job is to protect the Constitutional rights of everyone—no matter what their views or perspective may be.
That’s just what we as Tucson Police do— and we do it very well.
On Friday, several local African American leaders and others came together with us to acknowledge that even while there are real issues we must continue to work on with our minority communities, we are in a partnership to accomplish this work.
We have open lines of communication; we are listening to each other; and we have mutual respect for one another. The fact that we could hold a joint press conference to make these points, especially after such a difficult week, is a credit to the relationships you have built and your professional approach to policing.
Then on Saturday, a group of several hundred community members participated in a protest/ gathering to demand policing reforms and greater police accountability.
While these protests seemed largely focused on national events, we were able to acknowledge that we can do better right here in Tucson.
We are working to make our complaint process more timely and efficient, to improve our training in procedural justice and de-escalation tactics, to be as accountable as possible in tracking and evaluating how we use force, and to do more to recruit a diverse pool of well qualified candidates for positions within the department. These things are part of good 21st Century Constitutional policing and we’re an agency that believes in continuous improvement—always striving to be the best we can be.
During the local protest, we were able to keep the peace and avoid conflict even when emotions ran high on some of these issues. In some places, the police responded to protests of this type with a very “us versus them” approach, hostilities and frustrations among the officers working the events were evident, and the results seemed to drive some residents and police even further apart from one another. That was not the case here. Our officers who worked the protests were tactically smart and well prepared, but they were also patient and approachable. I place a premium on that kind of professionalism.
Your role in representing our agency, no matter what your assignment or rank, is very important. I appreciate that you are able to make officer safety a high priority without losing focus of how important it is to treat people in a friendly, considerate, and thoughtful way. This is not easy, but all of us knew we were not taking on jobs that would be simple.
The weeks and months ahead, especially as we head into a highly contentious election season, are not likely to be without challenges. You will continue to encounter difficult situations, emotions that sometimes run high, and folks with a wide range of opinions about how we should be doing our jobs. It is important to remember, every community member is one of OUR constituents. We work for them. Hearing them out, treating them the way we’d like to be treated, and being smart in how we do our jobs is what good policing is all about.
It is my privilege to work with you and I highly value your many contributions to both our agency and our city. Keep up the great job!
Regards, Chief Chris Magnus