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Law enforcement gets a lot wrong. But here's what the Dallas Police got right.

Five officers were killed in a shooting in one of the nation's model police departments.

Law enforcement gets a lot wrong. But here's what the Dallas Police got right.

On July 7, 2016, 12 Dallas Police Department officers were shot along with a civilian who had marched in a Black Lives Matter protest.

Five of those officers were killed.


Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images.

This news came at the end of a dim week in American history.

The Dallas shooting arrived on the heels of intense talks of the impact of gun violence in communities across the country and two high-profile police killings of black men Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The number of civilian deaths by police officers this year has now surpassed 560 people.

All of this obviously demands a number of questions but especially:

What are we getting wrong? And is anyone trying to get it right?

Statistically speaking, the DPD actually was getting some stuff right.

Police chief David Brown has made some major strides in improving police engagement with communities of color through what some would call unconventional tactics (by former police standards).

And although the department is not perfect by any stretch, the DPD has actually become a model institution for many large, city-based police departments around the nation, especially those that struggle with civilian claims of excessive police violence, staggering homicide rates, and a large number of civilian deaths by cops. Most impressively, from 2009 to 2014, excessive force complaints were down a whopping 64% in Dallas, a statistic that should be applauded.

The reforms took a major overhaul, but a few key elements really started getting the job done. Here are some of the bright points:

1. They added new crime-fighting techniques to their department, all aimed at helping people in the community.

Under the direction of Brown, the DPD has implemented new techniques, including training on how to de-escalate high-stress situations. Professions such as therapy and nursing typically require their employees to learn de-escalating, or reducing the intensity of a situation, but police don't generally learn these skills.

Because police have long been taught to use force, the idea of backing off might seem ridiculous to some officers — but Dallas is proving that it actually works. Not only did these new skills help reduce homicide rates, but they also helped with the drop in excessive force complaints in recent years.


2. They've worked toward being transparent with people.

Again, they're not perfect, but they've tried really hard. After Brown met with White House officials in June to discuss police transparency, the Dallas police released information about the police force and shootings to everyone in their community.

According to the report, they used force more than 2,200 times last year. Of those instances, 11 shootings involved officers while the rest included situations where suspects were taken to the ground by officers, tasered, or hit with a baton.

With this information release came an opportunity to start a conversation in the community about how to be better. And that's really important.

3. They have been open to change.

As frustration and violence increased, the leaders of the department have reportedly become more accepting of constructive criticism. In a op-ed for The Dallas Morning News, Brown explained:

"We are by no means perfect; there is plenty of room for criticism. We continue to be open to changing policies, training and community engagement. My biggest hope is that I am holding true to what I told that police recruiter: 'I want to serve the community, sir.'"


Brown speaks after five officers were killed. Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images.

It seems that the relationship between the DPD and communities of color, while strained, showed signs of progress during recent years, too. Witness accounts from the Black Lives Matter protests are evidence of that.




4. While evidence is still coming out about the assailant(s) in the Dallas shooting, Brown made it very clear during a press conference that militarizing his police staff isn't an option.

"We are not going to let a coward who would ambush police officers change our democracy," he said.

Overall, our criminal justice system is flawed.

Highly flawed. Incredibly, incredibly flawed.

Black Lives Matter protestors are fighting against violence, not for it. Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images.

Communities of color live in fear of heightened homicide rates. Black men are especially susceptible to being killed by police in contrast to their white counterparts. Black people have higher incarceration rates. And our history with law enforcement in America is bleak.

But a willingness to change in law enforcement could help us improve.

As we mourn with the DPD, it's important to remember that there aren't just two sides to these issues.

Many have pitted Black Lives Matter activists and officers against each other this week, but the fact is that most folks in each group want the same thing: peace.

Honoring black people and cops isn't mutually exclusive: You can respect the lives of police while also recognizing the concerns and heartache of black Americans. And acknowledging the fact the police brutality is real and needs reform doesn't mean that you can't respect and appreciate police.

And while our police system needs improving, the DPD's recent record is an example of what happens when people in power listen carefully.

It shows us that when people in power react swiftly instead of dragging their feet and put their citizens over the set status quo, change is actually possible.

So this week, as we're mourning black people killed unjustly along with innocent officers killed in the line of duty, we should remember that the DPD is by no means perfect.

But they are an example of what it means to try to move toward progress however you can. And they're an example of what more departments should be doing, too.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."