President Obama pens open letter to law enforcement; NOPD chief, FOP react

Published: Jul. 19, 2016 at 10:20 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 19, 2016 at 11:08 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Just days after three Baton Rouge police officers were killed by a lone gunman during an ambush, President Barack Obama issued an open letter to all law enforcement. Meanwhile, NOPD Chief Michael Harrison made the rounds to check on his officers in the wake of attacks on officers elsewhere.

"To the brave members of our Nation's law enforcement community: Every day, you confront danger so it does not find our families, carry burdens so they do not fall to us, and courageously meet test after test to keep us safe," the letter begins.

"I thought he was offering encouragement to police officers and certainly in the letter he was very understanding of what we go through every single day and what we've been through over the past several weeks," Harrison said.

The president's words referenced the Dallas police officers killed and wounded by a sniper, along with the officers killed and injured in Baton Rouge.

"Together, we mourn Montrel Jackson, Matthew Gerald, and Brad Garafola," the president wrote.

In the aftermath of police shooting and killing 37-year-old Alton Sterling as he was pinned to the ground and the protests that followed, Officer Jackson wrote poignantly on Facebook about how the tensions affected how others viewed him because he wore a police officer's badge. What Officer Jackson was not lost on the president when he penned his letter.

"Some are trying to use this moment to divide police and the communities you serve. I reject those efforts, for they do not reflect the reality of our Nation.  Officer Jackson knew this too, when just days ago he asked us to keep hatred from our hearts," he wrote.

We spoke to Harrison outside the  First District Police Station, where he stopped in for roll call to check on officers.

"To talk about their apprehensiveness, or maybe fears that they might have," Harrison said. "Although nobody really spoke about that, I spoke about it to make sure that I knew, number one, that they were still comfortable coming to work every day - everyone showed up."

Harrison said he and his officers also talked about safety equipment.

"They talked about different things they may be asking for to better protect themselves and we talked about those things that are forthcoming, those things that are practical and reasonable and that could be applied out in field," Harrison said.

Donovan Livaccari of the Fraternal Order of Police said officers should have access to chest plates and helmets.

"The bulletproof vests that officers wear now are incapable of stopping a rifle round. These chest plates are ceramic, usually, and it's not something that you would want to wear all the time. They're very heavy, and they're very hot," he said.

He also reacted to the president's letter.

"It was certainly a nice gesture. I expect that some of our members will be very pleased by the letter, and we'll have also a section of members who believe that this is just political posturing," Livaccari said.

And Livaccari said earlier in the day that he actually witnessed an example of public support for police.

"I was with two officers when members of the community stopped simply to tell these uniformed officers how much they appreciate them and how badly they felt about the events in Baton Rouge and the events in Dallas," he said.

Harrison said because he cannot make all roll calls as they happen, he also has made a video for officers on the recent concerns.
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