John Rivera, president of the Dade County PBA in Florida, recently appeared on Telemundo to present the law enforcement perspective on the situation in Dallas and other recent events.
For those who don’t speak Spanish, the translation of the interview is below.
LUIS CARLOS VELEZ (CO-HOST): Perhaps the first question is, what we’ve seen, what we know now — does it have to do with racial tensions or, from what we know about the investigation, did this man act alone?
JOHN RIVERA: Well, from what we know now, he acted alone, and he had a plan. He was already thinking about where he would go out and kill people. By chance, there was a protest and so it gave him the opportunity. But he was going to do it, he was preparing to do a bad thing to anyone. He wanted to kill whites, and above all he wanted to kill white officers. Look, every year we have over 48,000 assaults on officers. 48,000. In other words, every day, every 20 minutes a police officer is assaulted. Officers are under attack, they know that, and that’s why we are in this situation. If people attack officers, forget it. They can attack anybody.
FELICIDAD AVELEYRA (CO-HOST): Have things changed for police departments in Florida since the case that really triggered this movement in the African American community, the case of Trayvon Martin, which happened in Florida. Has it changed things for you all as police officers if you think your officers are in a state of higher tension?
RIVERA: Absolutely. I think that many politicians are afraid that the police department is involved with the African American community, and that is why we see the number of shootings on the rise. So there has to be a point where we make the decision that we continue to be police or do we throw it all behind us or what do we do? One thing that I want the community to know is that many times when these things happen, immediately the press starts to say things and repeat them and repeat them with the same people talking. But they don’t wait until they have all of the information, and that is very, very important.
VELEZ: Mr. Rivera, I wanted to ask you exactly about this issue that has to do with this conversation. Is it an exaggeration by the media to say that what we are seeing that we are divided, the police are behind the attack, is that an exaggeration? Are these isolated events?
RIVERA: Well, I think yes. You see the videos, you don’t see professional African Americans shooting in the streets, protesting. I think the people who don’t have anything to do, who have something against the government had an opportunity. This gives them an excuse to go out into the streets.
AVELEYRA: I think right now, you all as police officers generally in the country are in a very delicate situation because the images have been very disturbing when you watch the videos that just came out this week. They are very recent. I wanted to ask you, what are the limits the police have when they feel at risk in front of somebody, because many of us are asking why do they shoot someone directly in the chest. And I imagine, because wouldn’t someone be immobilized by a shot in the arm or hand or leg? Why do they react this way? What is the training?
RIVERA: The training is to shoot in the chest because it is the largest. We are not trained to shoot in the arm or the arms or the leg. That’s why when I tell people that if an officer l tells you not to move, don’t move. If for any reason you think that the police officer treated you badly, you can file a complaint. But after. Do not start an argument with an officer because he is the one who has the control in this situation.
VELEZ: But Mr. Rivera, very quickly. In your answer I’m not finding any sort of mea culpa or that we must review the way in which the police are working.
RIVERA: Well, I think they review it every time a case happens. That’s why I say we will see the information. Look, 99.9 percent of cases that we see like this, what they are saying at first is not what happened. They are not the facts. So, we have to wait. I think every time this happens —
VELEZ: I didn’t know that statistic. What I’ve seen is that one thing starts the investigation, then the police say we are going to investigate, and then there are plenty of people that, before, they didn’t have anything to demonstrate that they attacked them, they insulted them, they killed them, and then they show the video and the situation is different.
RIVERA: Well, look. Everyone talks about Ferguson, at first saying the policeman shot him from the back, he had his hands up, he was on his knees, we know that none of that happened. None of that happened, but still, it changed the lives of those police. But still people talk about Ferguson, knowing now that nothing that happened officially was bad.