DALLAS– Djuana Franklin collapsed onto her hands and knees in front of the Dallas Police Headquarters, sobbing uncontrollably.
She pressed her hands into the pavement, inches from the police cars turned memorial for the five officers killed in Dallas. The 44-year-old black woman wept for several minutes on the ground as others who came to pay their respects put their hands on her back.
The group, of differing races, helped Franklin off the ground as she composed herself.
“I will miss the love that I had from the officers and the public servants [who] did save me when I was raped,” she says, tears streaming down her face.
Franklin says the Dallas police are the epitome of community policing and that she is the living proof. They took her to the hospital after an alleged rape several years ago. They helped her when she was homeless and needed food.
“[They] took me where I could be safe after I’d been through that trauma,” Frankin says.
A symbol of better policing
For Franklin, life has been tough, she says. But during those times the cops have helped her through, which is why she is at this memorial now.
“I can come do this. I can get down on my knees. I can ask God to heal the families,” Franklin says. “I can ask God to take care of the officers that’s left.”
She placed a thank you note at the memorial.
Franklin is, in many ways, a symbol of the city’s community policing effort. Mayor Mike Rawlings says Dallas has “the fewest police-officer-related shootings than any large city in America” this year and is one of the country’s “premiere community policing cities.” He also credits the police department with training in conflict de-escalation “far before cities across America did it.”
While some critics have slammed community policing as a waste of time, Dallas Police Chief David Brown has insisted that it has led to reduced crime rates and lower tensions between residents and police.
“In my opinion, how can you argue with aggressive community policing if it has yielded the safest the city has been over 86 years?” Brown told the Dallas Observer earlier this year.
‘We have to come together right now’
Franklin believes the only way to honor those fallen officers, and to improve relations between the police and the African-American community is to act like a united country.
“We have to come together as a nation and come together right now,” Franklin says. “Not tomorrow. Not next week. You know we got to do it right now.”
The divisive relationship in many communities is understandably splintered, she says.
“If we would have been doing this a long time ago, [there] wouldn’t have been this much tragedy,” she says of the officer-involved shootings of black men and the subsequent attack on police in Dallas.
She hopes the deaths of the five officers will somehow be the catalyst for change.
“It will bring us closer together,” she says. “This is a start right here. I know it.”
By Mallory Simon and Sara Sidner