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Treating The Police, Fearing The Police: Dallas Surgeon Brian Williams Reflects

When injured police officers started arriving at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas on the night of July 7, Dr. Brian Williams was there to treat them. As a trauma surgeon, he treats all patients the same. As a black man, he acknowledged his own complicated feelings about law enforcement during a press conference on Monday. "I also personally feel and understand that angst that comes when you cross the paths of an officer in uniform, and you're fearing for your safety," he said. "I've been there, and I understand that. But, for me, that does not condone disrespecting or killing police officers." Dr. Williams recently spoke with All Things Consideredhost Ari Shapiro.

To hear the full conversation, click the audio link above.

Interview Highlights

On whether he planned to say what he said at the press conference:

Well, when I went to that conference, I did not intend to say those things. While I was sitting there listening to the conference progress, there was this conflict going on in my head about what should be said. And then at some point, I really can't explain it. My mouth just engaged, and the words came out.

What he's telling his 5 year-old daughter about what happened:

Well, specifically related to this incident, I have not had any discussions. I don't know that she would understand what is happening. You know, she knows that her daddy fixes people. That's what she tells me when I go off to work. But in regards to this incident, there will be a discussion. I don't know when. I don't know how. My wife and I will have to - need to discuss that when the time comes.

What it meant for him to the be the surgeon on duty:

When I look back at this in retrospect, I feel that there is some reason for me to be there on that night. I had already been feeling somewhat hopeless and despondent as a result of the killings the prior two days with Mr. Sterling, Mr. Castile. I think it's ironic that I was the one that was there to care for those officers knowing my personal feelings about law enforcement.

I certainly did not allow my personal feelings to in any way interfere with the quality of care I give any patient regardless of their ethnicity or race [or] status. But the outcomes have certainly been weighing on my mind ever since then.

His part in bringing a difficult discussion into the open:

There really is, in my opinion, no chance of having any kind of true, sustainable change until we are at least willing to acknowledge that black men are targeted in all segments of society. Once you acknowledge that, then we can actually move forward and address why this is happening and come together to make this country a much better place for our children.

[Before the Dallas shooting] I don't think I would have said this at the dinner table with any of my close friends. [Now] I feel relieved. I feel lighter on my feet. But it's not completely easy because I'm still grieving for these officers and their families, and, you know, I still see their faces. I still hear the family members wailing after I tell them this bad news. But I do feel hopeful that at the end all this will be very good for me personally, good for my family and also good for a much larger segment of society.

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NPR Staff