SEATTLE -- The head of Seattle’s police union said the shooting of two officers in the highly volatile town of Ferguson, Mo., should serve as a reminder to officers here that they need to be on high alert.
On Wednesday, two officers were shot and injured during an anti-police brutality protest in Ferguson, where demonstrators were calling for reforms to the city’s police department. The town has been at the center of a national debate over racial bias since last year when a black 18-year-old was fatally shot by a white Ferguson officer.
Attorney General Eric Holder called the shooting an “ambush” and Ron Smith, president of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, said it should serve as a reminder to all officers to “keep their heads on a swivel.”
Smith also urged officers to be vigilant back in December, following the assassinations of New York City Police Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, who were shot while sitting in their patrol cars.
“They need to make sure that they have the right back up on calls, not to rush into something unless they have the right resources,” he said. “This is a profession. It is a chosen profession. But their ultimate job is to get home to their families at the end of the night.”
Smith said the job of a police officer is made even more dangerous by what he characterized as a small, but vocal anti-police sentiment nationwide.
“We’ve always had a certain segment of society being anti-police,” he said. “We’ve had incidents across the country that have drawn great attention and people have come out of the woodwork to exercise their right to protest and talk about it.”
New bodycam video from MLK Day protests in Seattle
In Seattle, anti-police brutality protesters have held regular demonstrations since late last year. While many of the gatherings have been peaceful, some have resulted in arrests and officers have used pepper spray and percussion grenades to disperse crowds on several occasions.
On Thursday, the Seattle Police Department released video from a body camera worn by one of its officers during an unpermitted march on Martin Luther King Jr. Day earlier this year.
While the video shows several controversial arrests and a pepper spray incident that led to a lawsuit against the city, it also demonstrates the harsh environment that some officers must deal with during such protests.
In one video, a protester can be heard chanting, “An eye for an eye, a pig’s gotta die.”
In another video, a protester shouts “Monfort was right,” referring to Christopher Monfort, the man currently on trial for the 2009 murder of Seattle Police Officer Timothy Brenton.
Smith called the language “disgusting” and said officers are being targeted not because of who they are, but because of the uniforms they wear.
WARNING: Video contains some profanity.