Leadership is no easy task, as Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall would likely attest. Her latest leadership test involves the fate of former officer Amber Guyger, whom Hall rightly fired this week.
On one hand, Hall was faced with a situation where the raw facts are not in dispute and point to a fireable offense. Earlier this month, Guyger ended a duty shift and headed home. Rather than approach her front door, however, she arrived at an apartment directly above. There, she shot and killed 26-year-old Botham Jean in his own apartment.
Guyger believed at the time, she contends, that Jean was an intruder in her apartment. Nonetheless, it is right for Hall to expect better from her officers than the use of deadly force under such circumstances, and to terminate an officer who fails to meet her expectations in such circumstances.
On the other hand, Hall also leads a proud police force in a major American city. And here, too, the demands of leadership require her to enforce an appropriate level of expectations by terminating an officer involved in such an incident. Actions, even if they are shown to be mistakes, have consequences.
The hard part now is for Hall to lead in a city that is rife with division. In this highly charged moment, only preserving the presumption of innocence for Guyger can create the space that justice requires. She is entitled to the right to appeal her firing. And she is entitled to a full and fair trial on the charge of manslaughter that she faces.
That presumption requires us and our judicial system to be open to the facts that will be presented. But regardless of the outcome of that trial, Hall's officers will have to police today and every day in Dallas. So we hope that her good decision helps foster the right climate for good, strong community involvement in the law enforcement of the city.
— This editorial is reprinted with the permission of the Dallas Morning News