Almost two weeks after a lone gunman killed three law enforcement officers in a targeted shooting, Vice President Joe Biden and US Attorney General Loretta Lynch will attend a vigil in Baton Rouge, La., on Thursday, continuing the city's – and nation's – healing after a month of high-pitched tensions around policing.
Mr. Biden and Ms. Lynch will be joining Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and relatives of the slain officers in speaking at the gathering, to be held at Healing Place Church in the capital city.
Baton Rouge is recovering from the death of Alton Sterling, who was shot by police on July 5, and a deadly attack on officers Matthew Gerald, Brad Garafola, and Montrell Jackson on July 17. Gavin Long, a former Marine from Kansas City, Missouri, killed the three officers and wounded three others before he was killed by a SWAT officer.
Shortly after Mr. Sterling's death, as the nation reeled from another fatal police shooting in Minnesota and a Dallas sniper attack that killed five officers, Mr. Jackson had called for unity in a Facebook post, sharing the challenges he felt as a black police officer in the midst of heightened tensions around policing and allegations of racial bias. "Please don't let hate infect your heart," Jackson wrote. "This city MUST and WILL get better."
His frustration and hope have been echoed by a variety of groups calling for unity in the wake of violence committed by and against police officers this month.
"We don't need careless accusations thrown around to score political points or to advance an agenda," President Barack Obama said after the Louisiana police attack, days after he delivered a pained but hopeful speech honoring those killed in Dallas, and calling for reconciliation. "We need to temper our words and open our hearts ... all of us."
In order for police officers and the communities they serve to move forward together, many analysts have suggested departments should focus on creating stronger relationships, as The Christian Science Monitor has reported.
"How do you remove the fear? How do you remove the mistrust?" the Rev. Lee Wesley, of the Community Bible Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, told the Monitor last week, speaking on behalf of Together Baton Rouge, a coalition of religious leaders in the city. "People have to get to know each other if trust is going to be established."
That trust can start with simple conversations, Rev. Welsey said, noting that police need to "get out of their cars" and get to know community members "as an individual, not as a stereotype."
"Until we get those types of relationships going, we’re never going to get our community moving forward," Wesley said.
Another attempt to improve conditions in the city can be seen through a controversial attempt to require all Baton Rouge police officers hired after 2016 to live in the city. Two city council members say their proposal is intended to address racial imbalance in the force. But as the Monitor reported, that proposal has been met with criticism that it comes too soon, or is politically motivated.
"Right now, we're in the midst of burying two city policeman and one sheriff's deputy," Councilman Buddy Amoroso told The Advocate, a local paper. "The timing of this is absolutely despicable. This is not the time to have this dialogue, it is very shameful that this is even coming up to be introduced."
Other hope that such moves can prevent future violence and fears.
All stakeholders seem to agree on one thing: the violence must stop.
"There simply is no place for more violence," Governor Edwards said after the Baton Rouge attack. "It doesn't further the conversation. It doesn't address any injustice perceived or real. It is just an injustice in and of itself."
"I don't know if it's good or bad for our governor to cry, but I do on occasions like this," Edwards said at a briefing the day after the attack. "It hits home for all of us."
This article includes material from the Associated Press.