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Local law enforcers stand with Dallas, reflect on week's killings

New York State Police

Local law enforcement are sending their collective condolences to Dallas, where snipers ambushed and killed five officers Thursday night.

The Erie County Sheriff's Office issued the following statement:

"The men and women of the Erie County Sheriff's Office are shocked by the assassination of 5 of our law enforcement brothers and the wounding of 6 others. Our agency stands with Dallas Police Department as it fights through its sorrow to investigate the killing of 5 of their own and continue its hunt for these killers.

"Today, and for the coming days, the Erie County Sheriff's Office, along with all our law enforcement brothers and sisters throughout this nation, will mourn these dedicates public servants and remember their service to the community of Dallas."

New York State Police also posted the following to its social media:

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the men and women of the Dallas Police Department and Dallas Area Rapid Transit Police and the families and friends of the fallen officers and those injured."

Buffalo Police also expressed their solidarity with their fellow officers, saying, "Our thoughts are with the Dallas Police Department."

Buffalo Chief of Detectives Dennis Richards says police officers are human, but they must be well-trained to handle situations well. Richards spoke Thursday in the wake of the national shootings earlier this week of two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, by two white officers.

"The job still entails an awful lot of human interaction, being able to read people and to talk to people, treat people, often, with kindness," said Richards, following a news conference to announce funding to combat gun crime in the city.

Richards cites an incident last month with a .45 automatic pressed into the chest of an officer. The man with the gun didn't realize the weapon had a safety that was on which kept it from firing.

"Fortunately for the officer involved and the other two officers who ended up taking the man into custody, everything worked out. But, again, you can imagine the consequences the other way. That officer could have been shot or far worse. That individual could have been shot. Justifiable use of force? Sure. But, in this climate today, unfortunately, too many things are being tried in the court of public opinion," Richards said.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda says his staff learns from what happens in other departments and changes with events.

"Training is always updated. There's always new initiatives, new techniques, so we stay on top of them. We believe our officers are well-trained and we're always looking to do a better job tomorrow than we did today," Derenda said.

Mayor Byron Brown says the department has zero tolerance for officers who misbehave.

U.S. Attorney William Hochul says there are tens of thousands of interactions between officers and civilians and in his years in office, only 12 officers in his 17 counties have been charged with misusing their badges. At the same time, Hochul says officers are at risk on every shift, even for a routine traffic stop.

"These officers are at risk and there's no wonder when, unfortunately, you hear about these episodes because of the prevalence of guns and apparently the willingness of some people in the community to use them. So, the fact that police officers continue to do their jobs, day in and day, out at such a high level is just a testament to how good they really are," Hochul said.

Hochul says his office will go after officers who break the law and works with district attorneys' offices on prosecutions.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the public "cannot, and must not, tolerate cold-blooded shootings of any kind, whether it's against innocent civilians, or the men and women in uniform who courageously defend our right as Americans to peacefully protest. I encourage all Americans to turn these tragedies into calls for peace, not hate, and to use their voice to change the unacceptable and deeply dangerous status quo."

Congressman Brian Higgins (Buffalo-D) called for the killings to inspire "unity and action.  Families and communities are grieving.  We as a country grieve with them because we know in our minds and feel in our hearts that this nation, the United States of America, is so much better than the horrifying events we’ve witnessed in recent days, weeks and months. The violent attacks on police officers in Dallas last evening only serve to underscore our country's need to change the tone and tenor of public and private discourse to one of tolerance and acceptance.  Law abiding citizens should not be made to feel threatened by authorities and police should not come under fire by weapons of war."

Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President and CEO of the National Rifle Association of America, issued the following statement:

"On behalf of the more than five million members of the National Rifle Association, and especially on behalf of our members from the law enforcement community, I want to express the deep anguish all of us feel for the heroic Dallas law enforcement officers who were killed and wounded, as well as to those who so bravely ran toward danger to defend the city and the people of Dallas. With heavy hearts, NRA members honor their heroism and offer our deepest condolences to all of their families."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.