GAITHERSBURG, Md. - Before traveling to Dallas to pay tribute to five police officers who lost their lives in last week’s mass shooting, President Barack Obama asked a small group of law enforcement officials who gathered at the White House Monday for their perspective-- much to their surprise. Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger was part that group, and he told FOX 5 he had no idea they'd be joined by the Commander in Chief himself.
Manger says the invitation to the White House summit was last-minute. Inside the West Wing, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden joined Chief Manger and seven other law enforcement officers in what would become a two-hour long discussion about the Dallas shooting and overall perception of police in the U.S. The President asked for their feedback, Manger said, and the conversation was an honest one. Manger said he tried to be positive, but also honest with the President about what he's hearing and seeing.
The President has faced increasing criticism over his approach to racial tensions between police and minority communities. He's been accused of being more sympathetic to the critics of law enforcement, and less understanding about what officers face in doing their jobs. At one point on Monday, President Obama asked the law enforcement officials how they felt about his approach to their concerns. Manger says he didn't hold back, telling the President he needed to be more sensitive about police concerns, and that he may have been too broad in condemning police actions before all of the information in each case is known. That, Manger told him, is then the story that winds up in the headlines, and it affects public opinion.
"I told him, 'Mr. President, I think that a complaint many cops have is that you, the Department of Justice, and I'm talking about the former Attorney General, have rushed to judgment on certain of these cases. That before an investigation is done to find out the facts of exactly what happened, you're condemning the police or convicting the police in a court of public opinion,'" Manger explained.
Manger said during the President's remarks at Tuesday's public memorial service in Dallas, he heard him repeat several points that were brought up during their meeting. That, he says, told him the President listened.
In an interview with reporter Tom Fitzgerald Wednesday, Manger was emotional. He spoke personally about what he's hearing from his officers, how they're feeling under siege, and how despite it all, his officers tell him they still want to do a good job. Manger said he can't remember a time when police officers faced more risk, or felt more risk.
Chief Manger told FOX 5 one of his biggest concerns in these types of incidents is the power of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. He even shared that along with an outpouring of support from the community for his force, some of his officers have actually had people tell them to their faces, "I hope what happened in Dallas happens to you."
"To say that their morale is bad is an understatement," Manger said. "To say that they're worn down and demoralized is absolutely accurate. But I will tell you, to the person-- every man and woman I spoke with-- finished the conversation with me by saying, 'Chief, we got to do our jobs.'"
Thursday marks one week since the shooting that killed five Dallas police officers.