DALLAS, Texas – As part of their continued involvement in the conversation about law enforcement in their community, the Cowboys did something a bit different with their day off on Monday.
Fresh off the 24-17 road win against San Francisco, team captains Jason Witten and Barry Church met with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Dallas Police Department officials at Sunset High School in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas.
"I said it in training camp, and Barry did as well – we have a great platform and privilege, and with that comes a duty. This is part of it," Witten said. "To understand that we have this opportunity and a voice that is heard and to share initiatives and to be here with Attorney General Lynch – these are things moving forward."
The Cowboys' presence was part of a 21st Century Community Policing Youth Forum, which helped kick off the beginning of National Community Policing Week – enacted by President Barack Obama last week.
For the Cowboys, it was the latest effort to maintain the conversation about law enforcement in the community after the tragic shooting that left five Dallas area police officers dead and another nine wounded over the summer.
The team made headlines in July when they began their first practice of training camp by walking to the field arm-in-arm with Dallas Police Chief David Brown, Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings and family members of the shooting's victims.
Witten said it was important that that gesture not be the last one.
"One of the things we wanted to do in training camp was not only pay tribute to Police Chief Brown and Mayor Rawlings and the staff and the police force, and most importantly the fallen victims. But moving forward, we wanted to take a stand," Witten said. "To be able to come in today and see these things being talked about so that change can happen, that's something that we appreciate being a part of."
The forum was not open to the media, as the Attorney General wanted to foster a conducive environment for conversation. But both Cowboys players as well as officer cadets from the Dallas Police Departments held a dialogue with Sunset High School students – which was streamed live on the Department of Justice's Facebook page.
During her remarks, Attorney General Lynch commended the city of Dallas for coming together following the shootings – and she commended and thanked the Cowboys organization for highlighting that fact.
"Certainly, after the tragic events of this summer, Dallas showed that not only are you a community – but you really are a family. You all really, really are a family," she said. "Because in a moment when someone was trying to sew dissension and really cut those cords that bind you and turn Dallas into a place that was going to focus on the negative rhetoric and the hatred that people talk about sometimes, and the lack of trust – Dallas chose to go to its roots and say 'No, we actually are a community – all of us.' And you came together and showed that."
It was another step in the process, and Witten said that process hasn't finished going forward. Witten said it falls on community leaders to come together in times of need – whether it be mayors, police chiefs or prominent athletes. He said it was a great dialogue which he's excited to see continue moving forward.
"I think we have a formula that works, so to communicate that and to hear what the Attorney General is saying – and for her to listen, I think says about where our community is heading, and future generations and what they have to look forward to," he said.